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Audience Direct-To-Consumer DTC Marketing Insights Market Intelligence Qualitative Research Quantitative Research

As a consumer insights agency, we employ a number of quantitative and qualitative research methods to help our clients make data-driven decisions. We find that DTC and CPG brands often fail to spend much time researching product pricing. These businesses generally fall into two camps: 

  • Some companies want to set prices very low to beat the competition. This strategy often backfires because consumers may think a too-low-to-be-true price signals poor quality. Sometimes, low prices may encourage lots of sales, but they might not generate enough revenue to offset costs and sustain business growth. 
  • Prices set too high may discourage consumers who don’t believe the product’s value justifies the cost. That’s particularly true if consumers can easily find the same or similar products elsewhere. 

How to use the Van Westendorp Index to find the right price 

For our work as a quantitative marketing research agency, we often organize surveys or focus groups to gather useful data for setting prices. One of the marketing research techniques we rely on, the Van Westendorp Index, narrows down the price customers would willingly pay to a range. 

Also called the Price Sensitivity Model, the Van Westendorp Index starts with a set of four survey questions

  • Which low price might make you question the product’s quality?
  • Which price would make you consider the product a bargain?
  • Which higher price might make it begin to appear expensive?
  • Which higher price would discourage you from buying because of the cost?

Conjoint.ly develops analysis tools for marketing research. According to the Conjoint.ly blog, samples should include a minimum of 200 survey takers. That helps ensure statistically significant results. Ideally, marketers should either survey current customers or members of the likely target market. Consumers who would actually consider buying the product can offer better answers than random people. 

To analyze the data: 

  • Plot the answers for each question on a graph. 
  • Marketing research analysts refer to the intersection of the “question quality” and “too expensive” lines as the optimum price point, or OPP. 
  • Test the OPP and values around it to derive the real-world optimum price. 

Example of employing the Van Westendorp Model for Luma & Leaf 

luma and leaf products

We served as a consumer marketing agency for Luma & Leaf, a DTC natural skincare brand. We employed qualitative and quantitative research techniques to find answers to a range of questions, including packaging, brand messaging, and introductory price points. 

Luma & Leaf manufactures products with high-quality, clean, and sustainably sourced ingredients. After completing the surveys and analysis, the company successfully positioned itself as a mid-level skincare brand. Their product’s quality and prices appeal to consumers who would pay somewhat more for quality but still would not budget for the most expensive brands. 

The company could differentiate its products from cheap drugstore brands because of the sustainability, purity, and quality of ingredients, so consumers would pay somewhat more. At the same time, they set prices much lower than luxury brands to ensure they didn’t price themselves out of their target market. 

Benefits of the Van Westendorp Pricing Model

Rebecca Sadwick works as a consultant for businesses about growth strategies. According to Ms. Sadwick, marketers used to introduce a product and ask customers how much they would pay for it. This method never worked well because: 

  • Studies found that survey takers tended to offer low-ball answers as if they wanted to bargain with the business for a better deal. 
  • Also, many people taking surveys can’t answer the question well because they don’t actually have skin in the game—emotion factors into most buying decisions. 

The indirect series of questions about prices tend to produce better answers. Nobody can say exactly how much they will pay for a product at some point in the future. In fact, most shoppers would probably have a range of prices in mind and not one specific price. Survey takers can do a better job of estimating which price points they would find too-good-to-be-true, great deals, and prohibitively expensive.

How should companies use the Van Westendorp Model to set prices?

Even when a consumer insights agency offers a better way to estimate optimum price points by using the Van Westendorp Model, businesses should still test prices to find the real-world optimum. As with the example of Luma & Leaf, marketers should also understand the reasons for specific prices, such as the advantages the product offers over cheaper competitors. 

Mostly, eCommerce businesses need to set prices high enough to earn revenues that will cover costs and return a decent profit but not so high that they discourage their target market. Marketers can use this kind of quantitative analysis when it’s time to set prices. Ideally, they will also conduct surveys while they’re still planning the product to ensure their sales will support business goals.

Categories
Creative & Production Direct-To-Consumer DTC Marketing Insights Website Development

As a Shopify development agency, we develop and enhance Shopify eCommerce stores for our DTC clients. Plugins give us an efficient way to customize our clients’ experiences and those of their customers. This customization translates into increased revenue and efficiency, equaling greater profits.

Shopify plugins make it easy for us to fully customize eCommerce websites for our clients, depending on their specific needs. They also give us the tools we need to easily implement new features that keep customers engaged with the brands. No matter what solution we’re searching for, we can typically find an app that does exactly what we need it to, which in turn cuts down the development time.”

Jenna Radomsky, Bigeye Digital Project Manager

Five essential Shopify plugins for eCommerce stores

Thousands of plugins can integrate with Shopify. That offers store owners plenty of choices. On the other hand, new eCommerce store builders may feel somewhat overwhelmed by all of the options.

Our eCommerce marketing agency gained experience with dozens of Shopify plugins to serve the unique needs of an array of clients. While our clients offer a variety of products and business models, they all have common goals of increasing profits, improving efficiency, and earning more profit.

We find ourselves frequently returning to many of the same trusted plugins to help clients meet their goals. That’s why we commonly suggest a handful of plugins to almost everybody.

Enjoy a brief introduction to our top five eCommerce plugins for DTC Shopify sites:

Klayvio

This email-collection plugin helps build subscription lists. In turn, eCommerce sites can send messages with order updates, upcoming sales, and new product announcements.

Klayvio allows audience segmentation and works with text messaging and email. For instance, it could send out a message through text or email about a sale on end tables to customers who have recently purchased a sofa.

Sales Motivator

What shopper doesn’t love free gifts? What marketing manager wouldn’t appreciate increasing customer order value?

With this plugin, eCommerce sites can encourage larger sales by offering free gifts based upon the total value of purchases in a shopping cart. Users can also select free gifts to enhance specific product purchases. For example, a shoe store might offer a free package of socks or upgraded shoelaces with the purchase of new running shoes.

Yotpo

Today’s customers look for user reviews to help with purchasing decisions. Yotpo can collect and display user reviews with images. Shopify recommends adding reviews to product pages because almost 95 percent of their own customers read them before buying.

Both buyers and search engines appreciate this kind of high-quality content. Plus, Yotpo lets website managers organize the reviews into attractive galleries that can add a social media experience to an eCommerce site.

PayWhirl

Paywhirl gives eCommerce sites the ability to offer more purchasing options. Some examples include payment plans, subscriptions, and pre-orders. Offering customers more flexibility provides a competitive edge over competitors that neglect to give customers options.

For instance, BusinessWire recently reported that subscription revenues have increased over 400 percent in the past decade. According to surveys, customers like subscriptions that help them save money and provide them with convenience.

ShipStation

If customers only sell on Shopify or also accept orders from other channels, ShipStation keeps shipping organized and ensures customers and customer service can view their tracking codes. Some highlights of ShipStation features include:

  • The plugin can import orders from multiple channels, like Shopify, Amazon, or even a CRM.
  • Automation and scan-based workflows manage orders to ensure timely fulfillment.
  • The software can compare rates from various carriers and then print labels one at a time or in batches.
  • After the order ships, ShipStation sends tracking info to sales channels and customers.

Why consider these five Shopify plugins for a DTC eCommerce site?

As a DTC marketing agency, we do more than consult with our clients about external advertising and marketing. While site promotion matters, it can only bring people to the eCommerce site. The experience an eCommerce site offers visitors will close sales.

Besides making business sites more useful for customers, these plugins also make sales management more efficient. As sales increase, a more efficient website will help widen profit margins even more.

As a Shopify development agency, we work hard to design eCommerce sites that generate more revenue and lower operating costs. That’s how we bring value to clients and why they return to us as often as we return to these trusted plugins.

Categories
Consumer Insights Direct-To-Consumer DTC Marketing Influencer Marketing Podcast

Bigeye’s forthcoming national study reveals that among those who follow infuencers, 9-in-10 purchase a product after seeing it used or recommended by an influencer. Paige Garrett, Assistant Vice President at RVD Communications in New York, explains how influencer marketing is reshaping retail and why it redefines the shopper’s path to purchase. Paige also shares which tactics yield the most positive ROI and predicts where influencer marketing is headed in the coming years. 

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

​​Paige Garrett: The fluff content is gone. Influencers are really doubling down on brands that give back or initiatives that, you know, they align with personally. They’re saying no to deals with brands that they don’t admire who aren’t doing well by society.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Alongside the growth of social media over the past decade, influencer marketing has gained popularity with audiences and brands. Direct-to-consumer brands were among the first to use influencers to drive sales, particularly among new customers. A survey conducted by Inmar and Social Media Today recently found that four in every five respondents had made a purchase based on an influencer’s recommendation. And that over two-thirds of them had spent $150 or more. Influencers have loyal followings across several social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and most recently TikTok, creating new opportunities for brands to appear in paid and earned campaigns that leverage influencers’ connections with their followers. Today’s guest is an expert in influencer marketing. Paige Garrett is the assistant vice president of marketing at RVD communications, based in New York City. She has over seven years of marketing experience across various industries, including fashion, fitness, hospitality, and lifestyle. Having worked at companies like Shopbop, an Amazon subsidiary, Obé Fitness, and more. In her spare time, Paige is a fitness trainer and integrative health coach. To discuss all things influencer marketing, Paige is joining us today from Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. Paige, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Paige Garrett: Thank you so much. I’m so thrilled to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Could you tell us about RVD and the kinds of clients you serve?

Paige Garrett: Yes, absolutely. So RVD is a progressive PR, social media, and brand-building agency. We’re based in New York City and work across the hospitality and lifestyle industry. So we’re working primarily with bars and restaurants in the New York area, but also across the country, as well as some bigger national lifestyle brands. We also have a really strong women’s health vertical, so working with a lot of leaders in that space as well. And in terms of our, you know, core capabilities, I would say editorial PR is actually our bread and butter. So that’s where, as an agency, we got our start, that said, we understand, of course, that PR and sort of no marketing channel happens in a vacuum, so over the past few years, we’ve expanded our capabilities and services to include other marketing verticals as well. So social media management, email marketing, and then, of course, influencer marketing, which we’re here to chat about today.

Adrian Tennant: Paige, you’re the assistant vice president of marketing at RVD. What does your role entail?

Paige Garrett: I oversee our influencer marketing division, which is actually our fastest-growing division, which is really exciting. I also help oversee email marketing, I worked very closely with the social media management team and our publicists of course because for a lot of our clients, we’re working on the same projects, just on different channels. And I also help oversee new business with our founder, Rachel Van Dolson. So putting together proposals and strategies for potential clients based on their needs or what they’re looking for, which is also a lot of fun.

Adrian Tennant: RVD has clients in the lifestyle, health, and hospitality industries. Are these verticals especially well-suited to influencer marketing?

Paige Garrett: Yes, absolutely. So I would say, really any industry at this stage, is fitting for influencer marketing, but where we sit across lifestyle, health, and hospitality, there’s so much opportunity because there are so many influencers who are leaning into, more of just that like snapshot into their everyday life. So I think that those industries and categories, in particular, touch every one of us at some stage in our day. So it’s a lot of fun putting together strategies and, you know, specific campaigns for our clients within those industries, but, definitely a lot of room across any industry for influencer marketing.

Adrian Tennant: Is that true of business-to-business brands, as well as business-to-consumer brands?

Paige Garrett: I do think that there are still a lot of opportunities because from a B2B perspective, the people who you’re still operating with, a lot of them are also still on Instagram or on Facebook, or, you know, are using those channels to find potential partnerships. So I think, obviously from a consumer perspective, there’s a lot more opportunity in terms of just driving direct purchase and conversion  and bigger brand awareness campaigns as well. But I do think B2B, when you think about who is the consumer on social at this point, it’s really everybody.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any categories at all that you found don’t tend to be as good a fit for influencer marketing?

Paige Garrett: At this point in time, really every industry can win from some form of influencer marketing. That said, it’s obviously more challenging for certain industries than others. So you know, there’s a lot of red tape or regulations for certain industries. For instance, the liquor industry, even with our women’s health clients or supplements, there is a lot that you can and can’t do when it comes to having influencers endorse your brands or products. So, as long as you’re really reading the fine print and staying up to date with those regulations, and they do vary from platform to platform, I think that there is a way to go about influencer marketing. It really just comes down to finding the right strategy, finding the right partners, really getting clear upfront on the goals of your program and what you’re looking for. And then obviously matching that back to what you are, and aren’t allowed to do from an endorsement perspective.

Adrian Tennant: Could you explain the differences between paid and earned influencer management?

Paige Garrett: Yes, absolutely. So at RVD, we run three different types of influencer marketing programs. So the first you mentioned is earned influencer marketing and what that means it’s basically a fancy way of saying, trade influencer marketing. So trading a free product or experience or service to an influencer in exchange for set content. And that’s probably the type of campaign that we’re all most familiar with, in the sense that we’re driving trials with our influencers and getting their real-time feedback via content. So with those engagements, obviously there’s no agreement in place, there’s no flat fee compensation. So while we do our very best to confirm via email, we don’t have control over what that final piece of content might look like. So, it’s really making sure that, within those campaigns that you either have established relationships with those influencers, you’ve worked with them before and I think that’s where an agency comes into play in the sense that when we’re working with influencers on behalf of our clients in an earned capacity, we have that trust established. They trust us in the brands that we’re working with. We trust them that they’ll follow through with the content that they’re promising in exchange for that again, complimentary product or experience. And it’s a great way to also establish relationships early on with influencers and also just learn a lot because it’s not, from a budget perspective, you’re not spending a ton of money. You’re really just trading again, that experience or free product for content. But then from there, there’s bigger paid campaigns. So that’s when, in addition to those complimentary services or products, you are also giving an influencer a flat fee payment for their content creation. So this is where you might be working with a bigger macro influencer who requires compensation, or you have a very specific campaign brief that you want to make sure that you get exactly the type of content that you’re looking for. So with the bigger paid campaigns, there’s an agreement in place. You have more control over exactly when that content is going to go live. A lot of times we’ll include reviews within our agreements or that we’re getting to see the content before it goes live and providing our influencers with a round of content edits. So there’s just a little bit more control, compared to the earned engagement. That said, I don’t think smaller brands need to have these bigger paid budgets so early on as mentioned, I think an earned or trade relationship is a great way to learn and then carry those learnings into a bigger paid engagement. But we also do a lot of affiliate influencer marketing as well, which is more of an ambassador program, which also works nicely because you’re incentivizing influencers just based on the number of conversions they drive. So that typically looks like a set commission of sales that they drive, whether that’s tracked through a discount code or a unique link. So those are the three main campaigns that we run for our clients at RVD.

Adrian Tennant: How does RVD categorize influencers by the size of their following?

Paige Garrett: So this is a great question and I think the answer evolves every week, in the world of influencer marketing. But for now, we typically equate a nano influencer to anybody who has zero to 10,000 followers. So those are smaller influencers, but they usually have hyper-engaged communities. So in those earned engagements or the trade engagements, that’s where we’ll be working mostly with nano influencers. Micro influencers we typically categorize as having 10K to 100K followers. There’s a new branch of influencer, which is the mid-level, which is a hundred to 500K. Macro influencers would be 500K to a million followers. And then there would be the mega macros, which have over a million followers snd those are typically more of the celebrity status of influencers. So we, of course, are very mindful of these different tiers. And as mentioned a paid campaign versus an earned campaign will kind of stipulate who we’re working with from a tier perspective. but we do also keep a very close eye on engagement rate. No matter if we’re working with a nano influencer or a macro influencer, because at the end of the day, you want to make sure that your content is being seen. So there are a lot of platforms that can equate engagement rate for you but the way you would basically go about finding that engagement rate is likes and comments divided by the total number of followers. So again, making sure that in addition to a lot of followers, all of those followers are hyper-engaged with that specific influencer’s content.

Adrian Tennant: For those listening, who haven’t yet worked with influencers, what are some of the issues marketers need to consider when planning a sponsored campaign for the very first time?

Paige Garrett: A lot of the clients we’re working with are brands that are just launching or who have never done influencer marketing before. So what we like to lead with is lead time. So it does take a little bit of time to nail down your strategy, align on the goals of the program. Is it brand awareness? Are you looking just for content to repurpose across your owned channels? Are you looking, of course, to drive sales, sort of like, what are the main goals of this initial campaign that you’re putting together? And then from there, really working backwards to find the right partners. I think really making sure that you’re doing your due diligence and researching to find the right type of influencer. For instance, we would never recommend a cheese brand to an influencer who is obviously dairy-free. So while it takes a little bit of time to do that manual research, of course, there are resources and platforms that help, it is really important to take that extra time to do so. And then from there, it’s also vetting those partners. Obviously, in the world that we live in, everything on social and everything online, it lives there indefinitely, so make sure that you’re doing a deep dive before reaching out to a potential partner to make sure that they’re fully brand aligned with your brand or your client’s brand. I think influencer marketing works very similarly to public relations or PR in the sense that you still need to proactively pitch your brand or your product or service to the influencer and get them to be interested. So, you know, just like how journalists are inundated with pitches every day, so are influencers. So what can you do to really insert your brand or product or service into that influencer’s day-to-day life? How can you personalize your outreach and make them see the value of what it is you’re offering to them? So really taking the time to craft that messaging, in the right way. And then from there, it can take a little bit of time to get that interest. So again, I think the overarching theme of my replies is time and research. Typically, once we have that initial interest, we’ll provide a creative brief, but also leaving ample room for that creator to use their creative expertise, because that’s why, you know, you’re approaching them in the first place. So, just making sure you have all those various aspects buttoned up before you even begin your outreach so that once the interest is there, once you start the process of collaborating with an influencer, you know exactly what you’re looking for and the value that they can provide to you and your brand.

Adrian Tennant: Thinking specifically about direct-to-consumer brands or retailers selling online, what types of influencer marketing campaigns does RVD typically run?

Paige Garrett: A lot of the clients that we’re working with are either new brands that are just launching or brands that are smaller and may have never done influencer marketing before. So for a DTC client, specifically, we typically start with more of an earned or trade engagement. So providing that product, just getting the product into as many influencers’ hands as we possibly can. Of course, again, doing our due diligence to make sure that they’re the right type of partners, the right influencers, who would genuinely as consumers value from that client’s product or service. So, within that sort of initial earned or trade campaign, it’s a great way for us to learn a lot, candidly. So before our clients have to put, you know, larger budgets behind campaigns, we can use more of this earned engagement to find out what type of influencers are really resonating with the brand or product? What type of content is working really well? What content might not be working as well? Who do we love, who loves us? Just really establishing relationships and learning in this initial earned phase so that when it does come time to do a bigger paid initiative or campaign, or even just build a brand ambassador program, we have all of those learnings in place. The beauty of DTC, as well as that obviously via stories, or even just via link in bio, if you’re working with a smaller nano influencer, you can link directly to your client’s website or the specific products that the influencer is recommending. So from a conversion perspective, it’s really helpful specifically for those DTC clients.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Lane Martin: I’m Lane Martin, graphic designer on Bigeye’s, creative team. Every week IN CLEAR FOCUS examines trending topics through the lens of consumer behavior. At Bigeye, for every engagement, we commit to really understanding our client’s target customers, using research to learn about their attitudes and motivations. As a graphic designer, I use these insights to guide my approach to crafting visually engaging solutions and inspiring effective campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the right people, at the right place, at the right time.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, gender fluid, cis-gender, genderqueer, non-binary, trans-feminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2,000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY, reveals how beliefs across different generations influences the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to Bigeye.agency/gender.

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, trans-masculine, gender fluid.

Adrian Tennant: GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Paige Garrett, Assistant Vice President of Marketing at RVD communications. Paige, how do you calculate the return on investment for clients from an influencer marketing campaign?

Paige Garrett: I love this question. Of course, measuring success is extremely important and, you know, for our earned, our trade relationships, where we don’t have an agreement in place, we still typically like to use UTM links. So, essentially it’s first establishing, what is the goal of this program or campaign that we’re running? Is it capturing content? Is it driving sales? Which is usually the goal. Is it just driving bigger brand awareness for a specific initiative or partnerships? Sort of aligning on what the goal is upfront so that we can measure against that. But what we can use UTM links for is essentially, once our influencers are including that swipe up or the link in bio, we get to see what’s happening once a consumer leaves the world of Instagram or leaves the world of that influencer, and enters the world of our client or brand. So while again, these aren’t paid, we do have a lot of success with asking our influencer partners to use their UTM links, because the way we position it to them is that we, as a brand, want to create a longstanding relationship with you. And what this unique link will allow us to see is everything that you’re driving for us as a brand. And I think influencers are really active and receptive to that, which is wonderful because they also want to do right and do well by the brand. So basically what a UTM link does is codes all of that information into our clients’ Google analytics backend, so that we can see, obviously, who’s purchasing, if anybody’s purchasing or if they’re not purchasing, you know, when that customer is leaving the site, how long are they on the site for? It kind of helps from a UX perspective as well, especially for our brands that might have just launched. That’s typically how we will measure success in an earned capacity. From a paid capacity, there’s a lot more we can ask our partners for because we’re paying them and have that agreement in place. So we’ll always ask for their Instagram metrics. So there’s a lot that’s public in terms of likes and comments, but we also like to look at things like sends and saves. So, from an engagement perspective, how else are potential customers engaging with the content? I think saves is a great way to see that there’s obviously some sort of intent to come back to that content or learn more about it, read more about it, or purchase. The same goes with sends, in the sense that somebody is clearly sending that to a friend or to somebody else who they want to see that content. We also ask our paid partners: did anybody DM you about this brand? We look at the sentiment of their comments. So overall, just making sure that we’re capturing the full picture in the sense of what did this partnership drive from a website or conversion perspective, but also just from a bigger brand awareness and sentiment perspective as well.

Adrian Tennant: Paige, thinking about the types of clients you work with at RVD and obviously without giving away any trade secrets, what are some of the tactics or types of content that you find work consistently well?

Paige Garrett: Yeah. So we have a fun phrase that we like to say at RVD, which has gone are the days of fluff content. I think that, when influencer marketing first started a few years ago, especially on Instagram, there was a lot of posing with specific products or very curated content. And I think that while there are a lot of content creators who do create beautiful content that is very editorial and stylized, I do think that more real, authentic content is what is performing really well. And it makes sense because at the end of the day, a follower or a community that an influencer has, they’re looking to that influencer just for day to day inspiration. And they have that established relationship with that influencer. They know what their typical day is like because the influencer shares it every day. So when an influencer is promoting something that is so far from what they typically would share, or that clearly goes against something that a follower already knows about them, I think it’s really obvious to the consumer and it’s very unlikely that they’ll take action when it comes to that content. So for instance, we have an influencer who we work with quite frequently, who we had a paid engagement with recently. And her content was already pre-shot, we’ve, you know, approved the content. We were ready to go. And she actually, unfortunately, got COVID and it was during this time that she really used her channel to open up about her mental health, about the way that it was affecting her, obviously, physically, but mentally as well. It was such a beautiful thing to see in such a real and honest depiction of who she is as an influencer and the way that she wants to try to help others who are likely going through similar situations. And the content we had prerecorded just felt so wrong in that instance, because of this phase that she was coming out of personally. So instead, we decided to collaborate on, you saw value in the product previously. How do you see value in the products now that you’re coming out of such a difficult two weeks, a difficult time where you obviously spoke to your mental health, and how this has all affected you? And we kind of worked with her as a creator to reshoot the content in a way that felt really real and honest with where she was in her life. And I think that is a great example of the type of content that is resonating most, because it’s very authentic in a way that, followers and consumers are picking up on now more than ever.

Adrian Tennant: E-marketer estimates that influencer marketing sponsorships totaled around $10 billion in 2020. Given its popularity, are you seeing clients using influencer marketing in addition to ad campaigns or does that $10 billion reflect a shift in spending away from traditional and digital advertising and toward influencer marketing?

Paige Garrett: Yeah. I would say that the two definitely go hand in hand. I think it was about two years ago that it took 8 touchpoints to convert a customer. So I could only imagine it’s more like 12 now. Whereas as a society we are very distracted, we’re doing too much at once. It takes a lot to get somebody to finally decide to purchase something or to go to a restaurant or whatever that action is. So I do think that there is a reason to have both traditional and digital advertising in addition to influencer marketing. So I would say that, you know, bigger brands, they have that bigger advertising budget, but they’re also setting up a separate budget for influencer marketing. That said, I also think that for smaller brands or newer brands who don’t have as big of budgets, I think that the value of influencer marketing, especially early on in a business is so important. And I do think that a lot of our clients and a lot of the clients that we’re working with, do tend to allocate their dollars there first, because I think working with influencers, it’s almost like you have a group of beta testers to collect feedback from. Using our UTM links, we can see, is there anything broken in terms of our UX website flow that we should consider before you’re putting larger dollars behind advertising? And I do think also with influencer marketing, there’s a lot of content you can capture that you can then leverage for your owned or paid channels eventually. So, I do think again, the two work hand in hand, there’s a reason to be doing both, but as a smaller brand, while you’re just starting out using an influencer marketing campaign and more of that trade or earned capacity to start, is a great way to find your core audience demo, find what’s working from a content perspective. Use your influencers like beta testers, just like use that influencer campaign to collect a lot of data and information that you can then carry over when you’re ready to do more of a traditional or digital advertising run.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we can’t talk about social media and not discuss TikTok, the breakout network of the pandemic. Paige, what kinds of brands do you see performing best in this channel?

Paige Garrett: We love to talk about TikTok. It’s definitely a labor and time-intensive platform in the sense that if you’re going to be on TikTok, you really need to double down, and to be on TikTok. So what we typically recommend for our clients is making sure that you’re really ready and that you have enough content to fill in that channel. So, it’s obviously very video-heavy. There’s a lot of cutting and it’s also what we like to say as well as whereas with Instagram, there’s a lot of curation. It’s a very editorialized vision of your brand or product or service, and the same goes for influencers. I think that there are a lot of influencers who still take a lot of pride, artistically in their Instagram feeds and the type of content they’re producing on Instagram. Whereas with TikTok, it’s kind of like what Snapchat was like when it first came out, only it lives forever. It doesn’t go away after 24 hours, but it is a little bit quicker, a little bit more real, authentic, kind of like a BTS or behind the scenes look at, a real, authentic version of that influencer or of your brand. So, I do think that, you know, when it comes to influencer marketing on TikTok, we typically recommend not going too heavy until you have a presence as a brand on TikTok. That said, I do think it’s also a great way to test via influencers, what type of content is resonating on TikTok. almost using your influencers like a beta test to see what they’re producing on behalf of your brand on TikTok. So that, that can kind of get your creative wheels turning from your owned content perspective. Also leveraging that influencer’s TikTok content on your TikTok eventually. But when it comes to, let’s say, an influencer campaign that we’re running on TikTok for a brand that doesn’t have a TikTok presence just yet, we’ll also make sure that our influencer partners are repurposing that content via Instagram Reel so that they’re able to tag our brand of course, and drive direct conversion that way as well.

Adrian Tennant: For any brand that’s considering engaging with an influencer marketing agency or a communications firm to manage a campaign, what are some good questions to evaluate whether that firm will be a good fit?

Paige Garrett: I think that it’s getting very clear upfront regarding what you’re looking for with that influencer campaign. So, obviously, I think every brand is interested in sales, but depending on where you are in your business, do you just need content? You know, maybe you don’t have a budget for a big photoshoot or, you’re just a founder and you don’t have access to a full team. Is there a campaign you’re looking to mount just so that you can capture content for your own channels? Are you looking to drive sales? Are you looking for, you know, bigger paid campaigns? Just making sure that your goals align with the agency and the agency services and capabilities. I also think definitely asking about previous projects that they’ve done, case studies, making sure again, that the types of brands that agency may have worked with fits with what you’re looking for, what your brand vision may be, that they’re brands that you know and respect and admire in the space. And I also think it’s just making sure that you’re also set up to have a successful influencer program. So for instance, if you’re looking for a bigger brand ambassador program, do you have some sort of DTC component, do you feel equipped and ready to have enough product to seed out to influencers? If you’re doing a trade or earned program if you want a bigger paid campaign, do you have healthy budgets, making sure that, you’re aligned on all of those key components, in addition to, the goals of your campaign, so that that agency can give their strategic recommendation on what is or isn’t doable.

Adrian Tennant: Paige, looking at the next two to three years, how do you see the influencer marketing landscape evolving?

Paige Garrett: The fluff content is gone. I think that when an influencer is choosing to share content, whether it be sponsored or not, I think that influencers are really looking to add value and to open up bigger conversations, and use their platforms for the greater good. Whereas, you know, I do think there was a lot of curated interest in stylized content previously. So I’m excited to continue to see this where influencers are really doubling down on brands that give back or initiatives that they align with personally, they’re saying no to deals with brands that they don’t admire who aren’t doing well by society. Really just leaning into authentic, real content that feels good to them as a consumer, but also that they know that their community will resonate with. So I, for instance, would always rather an influencer say no, and we have had some, some no’s, because if it’s a dietary restriction or, a personal decision that they want to lean into a different industry, I would always rather hear, “No”, that “this is not brand-aligned”, then an influencer produce content that they don’t feel good about and that they don’t think their community will resonate with. So continuing to move in that direction, I definitely think video will continue to be huge. And I do think that video allows for that more authentic and real connection. Whereas, you can’t just hide behind a stylized photo. A movement towards the real is really what I think we’re all experiencing and especially after such a challenging few years, with everything going on, I do think that influencers want to leverage their platforms to do more than just share brands or content, to share resources. You know, I think that educational content will continue to be huge and just moving towards using social media for the greater good, rather than perpetuating unrealistic norms of a perfect lifestyle, which we all now know does not exist.

Adrian Tennant: So Paige, if IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about influencer marketing with RVD, where can they find resources?

Paige Garrett: Yeah, so you can visit our website at www.rachelvandolson.com. You can email us at info@rachelvandolson.com or find us on Instagram: @RVDCommunications.

Adrian Tennant: And if people would like to know more about your coaching services for fitness and integrative health, where can they find you?

Paige Garrett: They can find me at www.PaigeGarrett.com or on Instagram @PaigeAConnelly.

Adrian Tennant: Paige, thank you very much for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Paige Garrett: Thank you so much for having me. It was such a pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Paige Garrett, Assistant Vice President of Marketing at RVD Communications. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Consumer Insights Creative & Production Direct-To-Consumer Insights Package Design Photography Video Production

According to a recent BigCommerce analysis, product description pages stand out as the most critical parts of an eCommerce website. They emphasized the fact that designers need to consider their product pages from multiple perspectives: 

  • Potential customers visit product pages to make buying decisions. Most importantly, the page’s content and design should offer visitors the information they need to click the “Buy” button. 
  • Many visitors might arrive at these pages directly from search engines, advertisements, and social posts. These prospects might not have ever seen the site’s homepage. In that case, the page needs to function as a landing page and an introduction to the seller. 
  • The page must also communicate its purpose to the search engine, ad platform, and social media algorithms to increase traffic. SEO represents a critical element of the product page. 

Thus, crafting a good eCommerce, Amazon, or Shopify product page design takes some skill. To get started or improve conversions on existing product pages, consider some eCommerce marketing agency do’s and don’ts for product page design. 

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eCommerce Marketing Agency Tips for Product Page Design

Craft product pages well to increase website traffic and sales. Develop these important pages poorly, and conversions and even search engine traffic will suffer. 

The Do’s of Product Description Pages for DTC Marketing 

These tips should provide rapid improvement in traffic and conversions: 

1.Include customization options with descriptions 

Don’t force customers to navigate away from the page to find the color or size product they want to buy. Fewer clicks almost always translate into higher conversions. Use selection boxes or checkboxes to save space. Ideally, design the so choosing different options will also display images to match the selection. 

2. Display customer reviews 

Online customers almost automatically check for reviews before they risk their money with a new brand. Shoppers want to know how other customers felt about their purchase. Make reviews easy to find.

For one example, FigLeaves sells women’s clothing. According to Neil Patel, adding reviews to product pages increased conversions by 35 percent. 

3. Showcase competitive differentiators 

Searching online makes it easy for customers to find competing brands. Emphasize features for the product or site that make it a better choice than competitors. 

As an example, Neil Patel highlighted a product called a SuperSnorkel. This new type of snorkel retails for considerably more than typical snorkels. The product description lets customers know that the improved product allows breathing through their nose or mouth. Also, the lens doesn’t fog up and offers a 180-degree view. Shoppers can easily see the benefits of buying this product over cheaper alternatives.

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Some products might not offer marketers the luxury of providing so many benefits over competitors. As an example, one set of cotton pillowcases might closely resemble another. In that case, high-quality images, various color and size options, and the store’s return and shipping policies may need to work harder to stand out. This also offers marketers a chance to highlight better or more eco-friendly packaging as an advantage.

4. Spell out and update return and shipping policies 

Shopify published a study by the Baymard Institute that found extra fees at checkout, including shipping costs, account for over half of abandoned shopping carts. Besides shipping costs, spell out shipping and return policies on the page to reduce customer support issues. 

Remember that customer-friendly shipping and return policies can help improve conversions, but surprising customers later with unfavorable policies won’t help. A European eCommerce site for watches called Harloges improved conversions by 41 percent and average sales by six percent when they added their return guarantee to a banner above each product description. 

5. Add Multiple Product Images For Various Angles and Options 

For example, customers will want to see what a futon or sleeper sofa looks like when it’s folded up or folded out. Some may want to see the back of the sofa as well as the front. If the clothes, furniture, or decor come in different colors, provide high-quality photos of those too. Include other objects or people in the image to help improve visitors’ perspective of size, fit, and what the product might look like when they use it. 

The Don’ts of Product Pages for Effective D2C Marketing 

Just as an Amazon or Shopify marketing agency should ensure they include all the right things, they will also strive to avoid common mistakes. 

1.Focus on too many CTAs

Product pages should help build trust, provide an introduction to a company, and help with search engine optimization. Still, the product page must center around its primary job of selling the product. 

Just as product pages stand out as the most crucial part of an eCommerce site, nobody should underestimate the importance of the “Buy” or “Add to Cart” button on the product page. 

For instance, Nature Air increased conversions by almost 600 percent after they made the CTA stand out more and added it right next to relevant content. 

While page designers should emphasize the product’s CTA, they should resist adding additional calls to action on the page. Keep the customer focused on the sale and worry about enticing them to join a subscription list or anything else after committing to the sale. 

2. Don’t compose wordy or hard-to-read descriptions 

Crafting product descriptions takes some skill. The text descriptions should include information to satisfy shoppers but not appear wordy or as an unreadable wall of text.

The Shopify blog even mentioned that their customers frequently struggle to find the perfect balance between wordiness and completeness on description pages. An eCommerce strategy professional provided these suggestions for a Shopify product page design: 

  • Include essential details but otherwise, keep descriptions as short as possible. 
  • Use headings, bullet points, and paragraph breaks to keep the text readable. 
  • Supply photos, videos, or other media that can provide more information and appeal to more people. 
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3. Never forget to optimize product pages for search engines 

Perform keyword research and brainstorming to gather the sorts of queries that customers might use to find products. Include the most important and popular keywords and phrases in titles, headings, text, and image captions. 

Gather Data and Test for the Best Results 

Great product pages start with a good understanding of customers. An eCommerce marketing agency might use surveys, marketing research, and A/B tests to determine how to tweak product pages for the best results. As demonstrated by the examples, some seemingly minor changes can yield significant increases in traffic and conversions.

Categories
Consumer Insights Direct-To-Consumer Market Intelligence Podcast Qualitative Research Quantitative Research

Chantal Schmelz is a facilitator, strategist, lecturer, and marketer based in Zurich, Switzerland. Chantal explains how she uses the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method to break down barriers between participants and generate breakthrough ideas. Chantal shares consumer insights based on her work in Europe and the Philippines, and contrasts e-commerce in developed countries with what she sees in the developing world – plus how WEConnect connects women-owned businesses with buyers globally.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Chantal Schmelz: A very wise man once said perspective is not what you’re looking at, but where you’re looking from. So shifting perspectives in a team can unleash unbelievably creative solutions to problems that seemed impossible to solve before.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Bringing together business leaders, politicians, and journalists to discuss current economic and social challenges, the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting is usually held in January in the ski town of Davos, Switzerland. This year, due to COVID-19, the annual meeting was held virtually, but the WEF’s decision reflected the level of global disruption unleashed by the worst health crisis in more than a century, the aftershocks of which will have profound long-term impacts on many aspects of our consumer-led society. And as my colleague, Dana Cassell, described in Bigeye’s webinar and podcast, a return to “business as usual” isn’t an option. Many organizations have been forced by the pandemic to re-engineer some of the ways they operate. But how do you introduce change strategically, and at scale, within an organization? My guest this week is a change enthusiast who resists the idea of only having one profession. Chantal Schmelz works as a facilitator, strategist, lecturer, and marketing consultant with a very diverse portfolio of projects and clients. But Chantal’s projects always have two things in common: they actively drive positive change, and they only work when the collective intelligence of the team is harnessed. Chantal uses agile methods, tools, and processes to enable co-thinking and collaboration. Chantal has worked with McDonald’s, the Innovation Hub of the University of Zurich, and with startups all around Europe. To talk about her work and playful approach to creative facilitation, Chantal is joining us today from her home in Zurich, Switzerland. Chantal, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Chantal Schmelz: Thank you very much for having me, Adrian. It’s a pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Chantal, you are a facilitator, strategist, lecturer, and marketing consultant. Do you typically work with clients who engage you for just one of your skills or are they looking to take advantage of a multidisciplinary approach?

Chantal Schmelz: So, actually, it most often is kind of an unintentional upselling process. To tackle strategy often sounds too big of a task and facilitation is too intangible for a lot of people or fancy-pantsy for them. So actually, often people come to me with a very clearly framed task, like doing a webpage or getting their teams trained on any specific, marketing communication topic. And once we get to work together by asking a few, probably sometimes uncomfortable questions, we started turning stone by stone. And in the end we mostly work on a rather strategic project together with the help of agile methods. So I’d say most of them are not specifically looking for my multidisciplinary approach unless they have already worked with me, but get to see the value of connecting all these dots and thus creating better outcomes once they’ve overcome the fear of tasks that seemed too big to tackle.

Adrian Tennant: Would you say that you are equal parts facilitator, strategist, lecturer, marketer – or do you favor one role or specialism over the others?

Chantal Schmelz: What a lovely question. I’ve always been a kinesthetic learner, myself. One of the characteristics being that connecting things and spatial thinking has always come very naturally to me. But I had an awfully hard time at school as the system implies that there are natural boundaries between physics and English where in my brain, there are none. All dots are somehow connected. So frankly speaking, I’ve never much questioned whether I’m now working as a facilitator or a marketer only. I like to listen and watch closely and then bring all skills to the table that might help the process. So I see myself rather as a human being, with a toolbox full of very differently shaped tools that all have their benefits and timing and also limitations. Using them resourcefully, that is more important to me than whether a client is referring to me as their marketing consultant or their facilitator. However, I’m not down talking on the difficulties that one faces when, especially I have to position myself clearly, as in this podcast. Ironically, that is something that I try to avoid, against the advice I’d regularly give to my marketing clients when I tell them they have to have a very clear positioning!

Adrian Tennant: Hmm, I like that. So, Chantal, what types of projects have you been working on lately?

Chantal Schmelz: Multidisciplinary ones! I know that’s not the answer you were looking for, but it’s somehow true. So last week, I ran a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop with 50 people that all work at the overlap of innovation and education. And we worked on the topic of gamification. So it was all mixed and tangled up: multidisciplinary. And I also currently work on two bigger projects with clients that always remind me of Renee Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy book, because both are existing within long-been-there industries with clear standards and procedures, and also a clear set of thinking or mindset. However, both have unique approaches that lay way outside of the industry norm or what has been known so far. So one is a small fashion label that manages to produce circular fashion. So not just hopping on this sustainability train that the bigger fashion labels have onboarded over the last few years, because it was trendy – where they do textile recycling, which mostly only consists of collecting old clothes, shredding them, and reusing as insulation materials. This small label has managed to really retrieve the raw materials from their clothes and make new ones out of them. And the other one is an even older trade – it’s retail. So it’s a hard discount retailer that is built up in a very similar way to the ALDI concept, from years back. So, old-style retail. However, while ALDI has mostly stuck to industrialized countries for their expansion, they are expanding into the Philippine market with its very unique demographics in a time where the communities there – not only by the pandemic – have already been widely digitalized. They have the need to educate their consumers while not making them feel that they’re being educated. So excellent use cases for multi-disciplinary tasks where I can bring all my skills to the table, not simultaneously, but over the course of time, all of them will be used.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Well, you mentioned the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method. I know you’re a facilitator and certified in the method. Could you explain what it is and how you came to be using LEGO® in facilitation?

Chantal Schmelz: I have two boys at home, so we were playing LEGO®, not very seriously, at home already. And I’ve seen the benefits with my children talking over LEGO® already. I also have an education degree and with all my consultancy customers and clients, I always hit the same brick wall where they just got stuck because you handed them a blank sheet of paper, where they had to note down bullets or ideas, or, had to, come to decisions based on just talking together. And I felt with the education knowledge in the background, that there must be more opportunities to unleash the potential that lays in these discussions. a friend of mine started doing LEGO® and she was like, that’s going to be that solution for unstacking those discussions. So I took upon a challenge and got certified and have ever since had the most amazing experiences with customers, people just wanting to test the method and being really like, “Oh, I didn’t know all these people in the room, but I now somehow feel connected and we could really, without knowing each other, with very different backgrounds, we could work on one topic together in a very appreciative, highly participative way”. So this is for me is the beauty of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. And, also how I came to use it in the first place.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most common preconceptions clients and participants have about using- I nearly said playing with – using LEGO®?

Chantal Schmelz: Oh, we always say “let’s play,” because I mean, everyone knows it’s a play and playing comes very naturally to all human beings. So, why not to managers and CEOs? However, especially when it’s a highly hierarchical or highly disturbed team there, you always have people [with] crossed arms, eyes rolling, “Oh, yet another team-building event. And I’ve been to tons of them.” And we try to always just say, “Give it a try. If you don’t like it in half an hour, leave it.” And it doesn’t even take half an hour because most of the people, because they know LEGO® from their kids’ rooms and the painful experience when you stumble upon it then, most of them really think you’re gonna childishly play with LEGO®., but it’s a serious play. So there’s a process behind, there is a dedicated outcome you want to achieve. and it’s just enabling discussions in a very easy way that also perfectly works cross-culturally so I’ve had all these crossed arms and funny faces when I tell them we’re going to do LEGO® now, however, in the end, all of them have been rather fascinated by how easy discussions run throughout a day.

Adrian Tennant: Do you typically work with a regular set of LEGO® bricks or is there one particular set that you give to each participant?

Chantal Schmelz: That really depends on whether we play physical, like in locations on-site or whether we do online sessions. If we play online LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, we go by the standard LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® exploration packs because then it helps that everyone who’s only connected via screen has the same set in front of them. When you have large groups, around big tables, I just really put masses of LEGO® on there, to have them explore everything because there you have another context. So both work with limitations, whether virtually or physically.

Adrian Tennant: What does the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method certification process look like?

Chantal Schmelz: Actually, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® was invented by LEGO® themselves as they were looking for a new innovation process that would enable them to get to new products and innovations faster. They used that for a couple of years and in 2010, they decided to make it available under the custom commons license. So there are, of course, they’re supplying the bricks and have kind of part of the earnings on that, but they are not the ones doing the facilitation. There are various companies, master, chief, black belts, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® gurus that do certifications, but you’re not certified by LEGO® you’re certified by each of those institutions that do certification rounds. However, you get a “how to use the LEGO® brand” custom creative comments manual that you have to follow once you tell the world that you are now officially a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, gender fluid, cis-gender, genderqueer, non-binary, trans-feminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2,000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY, reveals how beliefs across different generations influences the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to Bigeye.agency/gender.

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, trans-masculine, gender fluid.

Adrian Tennant: GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Chantal Schmelz, a strategist, facilitator, and marketer based in Zurich, Switzerland. Now you mentioned that you’re involved in a very interesting textile company. Could you explain the philosophy behind the Yarn-to-Yarn® process?

Chantal Schmelz: Probably a lot of people already know cradle to cradle as a concept of the Circular Economy and Yarn-to-Yarn® is kind of the adaptation to the textile industry where you say you use materials that can either be easily separated, once clothes are being returned after use. For example, you need to be very careful what patches you sew onto your clothes, what color imprints you use and what tags you use, what buttons, what zippers because they need to be ripped off before the reuse can start. And also, like with cradle to cradle, it’s essential that you don’t mix raw materials in a way that they cannot be separated anymore. So you don’t glue it, you nail it because then it can be separated. And with Yarn-to-Yarn®, you use fibers that can be separated chemically or, with bio enzymes easily. So that in the end you have cotton and polyethylene fibers, as raw materials in the end. So you can have new yarn created out of the raw materials easily. So it’s the same process as cradle to cradle for the textile industry. And at the moment, it’s based on a bio enzyme process that allows to separate cotton and polyethylene fibers, so that they can be totally 100% reused at the end.

Adrian Tennant: Chantal, how did you become involved in this particular technology?

Chantal Schmelz: Actually, it started with Facebook advertising. As I said earlier, a very concrete, clearly framed task someone needed to be done. So for a marketing campaign they needed someone to run the ads for them. And by asking more and more questions, and also being asked questions back, we came to “Okay, there’s more to the strategy that needs to be developed, the storytelling needs to be enlarged, needs to be tailored to certain audiences that are already rejecting fast fashion.” So, it’s really that unconscious or unintentional upselling, how I came to be involved. In the yard to yard and process or project as a consultant.

Adrian Tennant: Chantal, I know you’re also very involved in WEConnect International, Could you tell us a little bit about your work with the organization?

Chantal Schmelz: Yes, I gladly do. So WEConnect is certifying women-owned businesses to give the purchasing partner, the certified buyer. Let’s say Walmart, for example, in the US, they have a hard time figuring out which women-owned business could be a potential supplier for us. So WEConnect kind of bridges that gap, giving the buyer insight into what suppliers they are in the specific areas they’re looking for products or suppliers. In the US, I know because WEConnect originates from the US and you have laws that tell procurement purchasing to what percentage they have to buy from minorities. Whether this is the Black community, or women-owned business, or LGBTQ. So they have like these set rules. In Europe, these rules or regulations, laws, do not exist. At the moment there are so many supply chains in Europe that have zero percent women-owned supply in there. And we try to change that. In my role, I do that for the Swiss market. So I try to first certify the women-owned businesses, assess them, and then also get them in touch with potential buyer-side customers so that we can help to diversify the supply chain as well, because that’s a big chunk of the market that is so far in untapped potential for women-owned businesses.

Adrian Tennant: In which areas of business do you see the most untapped opportunities for women?

Chantal Schmelz: So I think studies have already shown plenty of times that female-led teams or female-led companies, as well as diverse-led teams, sustainably perform with a higher return on investment for investors, for example, than all-male-led teams. So there’s generally a lot of potential in the market for female-owned businesses. However, what we see is that a lot of women directly go into the service area of business: training translation, copywriting, marketing consulting, such as I do. And there is a huge demand for products, med-tech. So the more technical areas where I think that the very mindful approach that women give to building up a company could also not only lead to them tapping into this potential or these opportunities but also sustainably changing industries to more sustainable working.

Adrian Tennant: Chantal, thinking about strategy, what are some of the biggest challenges you’re finding that clients are facing right now?

Chantal Schmelz: Even though we often say that we do forward-looking, future-oriented strategy work, we mostly don’t. We look at past data or data trends and then extrapolate it, to generate a strategy that looks into the future. Mathematically calculated, gut feeling extrapolated. Now with the pandemic that hit the entire world at the same time, looking at past data, and data trends, doesn’t do the trick anymore. And even if you say we only look at the years 2020 to 2021, the underlying assumption remains that this is just an exception and the trends might not continue. So, companies are facing now the challenge that they have to come up with strategies from within and still make sure that their mindset remains agile, to the point where they do short sprints, evaluating new problems, new challenges, ideation, prototyping, testing, and then redoing it over and over again. And I think that’s at the moment, the biggest challenge because lots of bigger companies are still used to long innovation cycles, where they do all the research properly and data analysts spend hours and hours on evaluating and benchmarking before they put anything in front of the customer. And I think that has gone.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, it makes sense. Chantal, in what kinds of ways are you typically supporting clients with strategy?

Chantal Schmelz: I’m really hard on you in many! No, seriously, it is like with children, if you have the same age, same background of upbringing, same schooling, you still have totally different kids. And this also holds true for businesses. I don’t have the one typical approach of supporting them with their strategy, but I found three things to be of the essence for every good or successful strategy process. One is enabling all involved parties to form a joint understanding of the challenge. Because meeting culture, mostly renders this impossible. It’s like meetings are more of a talking back and forth, just staring at the wall battle, than a co-thinking process that would allow teams to capitalize on their joint knowledge. So setting the stage to enable, facilitate people, to really use this crowd wisdom, to jointly understand the problem, and being able to tell one story with one voice as a team really helps to move forward fast with strategy work. The second one is perspective. A very wise man once said perspective is not what you’re looking at, but where you’re looking from, and we are often caught up in own perspectives and probably don’t see the opportunities that lie right next to us, because our standpoint is not into the right direction. So shifting perspectives in a team can unleash unbelievably creative solutions to problems that seemed impossible to solve before. And the third one is getting the teams, the companies, to the mindset that they do strategies in small increments, and test them, right away. Get them in front of the relevant user, customer stakeholder. Because the most beautiful PowerPoints are totally useless unless you get the user, the customer to buy into them. So I think giving that perspective on the importance of testing, because before data analytics was like the key discipline you had to master. Now it’s testing. Testing, and interpreting data you get from testing in order to move forward fast.

Adrian Tennant: So Chantal, thinking about all the projects that you’ve been involved with across several disciplines, which was your favorite and why?

Chantal Schmelz: Actually very interesting story of a female entrepreneur. When I started with her, probably four years back, she was neither tech-loving, nor did she have any web page, online shop, anything like that. But she’s selling household products designed very nicely, high functional, so excellent, innovative products for the mass market and she was not on the internet at that point. Two years later, she became Amazon Entrepreneur of the Year in Germany. And the transition we made throughout all this, and accompanying her throughout this journey. She was on television on one of these Shark Tank shows, so a really exciting story to be part of. And at the beginning, I would not have imagined that we would manage that at all to get her on the internet, selling on Amazon, not in my wildest dreams. And she’s very successfully launching one product after the other now.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Chantal, if IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about you, and your work in strategy, facilitation, and marketing, where can they find you?

Chantal Schmelz: Most easily, I’d assume, on LinkedIn. Because there I’m available in all languages that I’m able to speak! 

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. Chantal, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Chantal Schmelz: Thank you very much, Adrian, for having me. It was a real pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on, IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Paige Garrett: In a way that advertising used to be where you trust the channel you’re watching, or you trust the magazine you’re reading, that trust is now in those influencers And not like you’re just getting that content. You’re not just getting served an ad. You’re getting served this person’s entire life or whatever it is that their niche is that they’re sharing about. And that is where that trust is established.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with influencer marketing expert Paige Garrett, next week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Chantal Schmelz: strategist, marketer, and facilitator. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Consumer Insights Direct-To-Consumer Market Intelligence Podcast Qualitative Research Quantitative Research

Bigeye’s guest this week is Ksenia Newton of Brandwatch. Ksenia explains how she triangulates different sources of data, including social listening, to derive fresh consumer insights about shopping behaviors in-store and online. Ksenia shares insights from recent Brandwatch reports and makes some predictions about this year’s holiday shopping season, based on what she’s seeing in her research. We also preview the results of Bigeye’s upcoming study about US shopping behaviors.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Ksenia Newton: People are willing to spend, and I can see this in the social data. People are all looking for products, so I think that presents a great opportunity for retailers and e-commerce companies to do a little research, understand what their consumers are looking for, and push those deals to test the different offers and kind of start getting them early on.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insight at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. The experience of shopping has been transformed for many of us over the past 18 months as e-commerce has boomed, innovation in retail tech has accelerated, and competition among online retailers has grown. We’ve seen online and offline shopping experiences merge such as order online and pick up in-store. One way of tracking the impact of these changes in consumer behavior is through social listening, enabled by tools that can track information about products, consumers, and purchase intent in real-time. Marketers can use social listing platforms to understand consumer sentiment and improve their own presence on social networks. Our guest today is an expert in this area. A researcher and strategist, Ksenia Newton is the marketing content specialist at the digital consumer intelligence company, Brandwatch. Ksenia likes to think of herself as part social analyst, and part writer, deriving consumer insights from social data and turning those into helpful reports and data-driven stories. To talk about her work with Brandwatch and what she believes the future holds for retail and e-commerce, Ksenia is joining us today from Málaga, Spain. Ksenia, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Ksenia Newton: Hi, Adrian. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Ksenia, you’re in Málaga, Spain today, but your home base is New York City. What takes you to Málaga?

Ksenia Newton: As a New Yorker, I really tried to extend my summer holidays. Maybe indulge in some paella and finally try out this digital nomad lifestyle, but I’ve also wanted to see Málaga for a long time. I see it has a rich history and beautiful architectural sights, but definitely, paella and wine scored first in my decision-making process. So no shame.

Adrian Tennant: You’re leaving New York City for the first time in months. How does it feel to be traveling again? 

Ksenia Newton: It’s expensive to travel again. Regulations change, you know, basically on a daily basis. So we are traveling, our next point would be Ibiza island which we’re traveling to tomorrow. We just found out that the local government of the island has imposed a new rule that’s in effect from September 8th to September 15th. Everybody who’s traveling from the mainland of Spain has to get a PCR test done. So every PCR test in Europe is over a hundred Euros. So number one, traveling again is very expensive because you just end up spending a lot of money to do PCR tests, no matter where you go from one country to another, from one island to another. Other than that, a lot of people are traveling and what’s surprising is that people actually follow social distancing. A lot of places here require vaccinations, people wear masks, so that’s definitely nice. There’s this little bit of excitement up in the air of people just really enjoying. So I think while we don’t have to talk about the downside of the pandemic, it was devastating, right? Still is, but at the same time, I feel like that gave people just maybe another breath of fresh air because they’re enjoying their life again, right? Before we were able to do all these different things but then once we were no longer able to do anything. And then we are back at traveling, people would just really enjoy their glass of wine, really enjoyed their meal. They really enjoyed the company of their friends. So I think that’s been very interesting to watch, just laughter all around and personal connections, just having a conversation, not a lot of people. And I know, in New York, most of the time people walk around with their phones, just staring at their phone non-stop. In Europe, it’s very different. And I don’t know if it’s always been different, but in Europe, people actually enjoy in-person conversation. Maybe it is an effect of COVID. So hopefully one positive trend that came out of the pandemic is the fact that we kind of just become a little bit more human again. Maybe that’s the case.

Adrian Tennant: Could you explain what Brandwatch is and what types of clients the company serves?

Ksenia Newton: Absolutely. So Brandwatch is a digital consumer intelligence company. We’re based in the UK and while Brandwatch Consumers Research, our flagship platform, can process all kinds of data side-by-side, we are best known for our capabilities in making sense of the voices of billions of people through analyzing different sources, like public social media posts, review sites, video sites, blackboards, and news articles. Currently, we have over 2,000 different clients, from agencies to larger brands, most of them are very well known. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’re a marketing content specialist with Brandwatch. What does your role entail?

Ksenia Newton: You can think of me as a social researcher, I would say. So I gather and analyze social data shared publicly by consumers on various topics online. And I turn those insights into posts and reports that are going to help companies and brands better understand and adapt to changing consumer behavior. I think I would call this a social researcher because that’s what I do.

Adrian Tennant: Now you recently wrote and presented a report for Brandwatch, which explores how consumer behaviors have changed since COVID-19 and it looks at their impact on e-commerce for the remainder of this year and into 2022. Ksenia, briefly, could you explain how you obtained data for Brandwatch reports?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, absolutely. Brandwatch has access to the largest archive of consumer thought and opinion. We’re currently talking about 1.2 trillion public mentions. Our sources include social networks and forums and news sites, review sites, video sites, and as you know, there’s over half a billion new public posts that are being shared every day. And also Brandwatch is a Twitter official partner. So that allows us to access the full fire hose and Brandwatch is the only actual provider who index and stores that entire Twitter data on our servers for instant access. So you can go back all the way back to 2008, I believe, to kind of look at what was happening back then, and then compare those data to the real-time mentions.

Adrian Tennant: So it’s kind of longitudinal data opportunities there as well?

Ksenia Newton: Absolutely. But also, I love reading through data. So sometimes it’s, you know, it wants to sort of look into this. You can fall into that loophole. You just stay there for hours trying to see, “Wow. I can’t believe that actually took place back in 2008.” Right? And how different the world looks like these days. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most significant trends that you saw evolving during the pandemic and that you believe will prove to have longer-term impacts?

Ksenia Newton: I truly think that the pandemic of 2020 actually has changed the way we do many things, including how we shop. And it’s driven this rapid digital adoption around shopping specifically. So a couple of strands that I can think of right away one is the touch-free, right? We all wanted to have this contactless experience. We don’t want to touch anything. I live in New York. So all of a sudden in New York, our subway has changed from using the regular MetroCard to actually just tapping our card and just paying for it and going through. So people who are looking for this type of experience and I think that is going to be a trend moving forward: touch-free whether, you know, is the experience in-store or online. The other thing that I can speak to is the virtual try-on trend. I think it’s huge. Myself, I’ve purchased products by literally trying them on online. And whether it’s clothing, accessories, there’s also makeup you can do now in 3D, or if you were trying to redesign your space, I think that’s also huge. And the other ones, I would say, is probably social commerce and live streaming. Live streaming is becoming really big, especially in Asia and it’s definitely moving towards the rest of the world. But also the growing power of social marketing and ethical shopping, I think that’s the other trend. I guess we’ve been stuck in the pandemic for so long a lot of people reassess their behavior around shopping. And that also includes social influencers who are, not only promoting certain products, but they also really embrace ethical shopping. So they try to send that message over. So people care a lot more these days about what the brands stand for, what they represent, how ethical they are, and so on and so forth. So I think this is going to be a big one as well.

Adrian Tennant: Bigeye has recently conducted a survey of consumers across the US. And while the data is provisional, it appears that a majority of Gen Z and Gen Y consumers are purchasing based on seeing influencers use, or recommend products. Now, during COVID brands adapted to lockdowns and nonessential store closures by introducing live streaming. Did you see greater adoption of social commerce in your research?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, I’m actually working on a report right now. It’s the report around COVID-19 and its impact on the consumer behavior moving forward. And something that I currently see in data is not only people shop off to see something that’s being promoted to them by influencers or somebody that they follow. People also shop for a variety of other reasons like impulse buying as well as something to look forward to. So there are a lot of other motivations that I’m just uncovering right now. So I do think there is a greater adoption of social commerce, but people are spending a lot. And actually, I think I read it in Statista. I think it might’ve been an hour extra that people will spend online watching all the different entertainment shows and livestream as well. So, definitely greater adoption, I think it’s going to stay that way because we’ve been through the pandemic for so long that we’ve gotten used to this type of experience. Yeah. I think it’s here to stay. I’ve actually never shopped through a live stream yet. So I’m lagging behind, not an early adopter here!

Adrian Tennant: What kind of impact has TikTok had?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, as you know, TikTok is one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment platforms. I know that they’re currently trying to invest heavily in social commerce. They’ve just partnered up with Shopify and I think it’s going to be a great deal because the majority of users on TikTok are Gen Z. So I remember from last year there were a couple of fashion brands that went viral with their little videos on TikTok. And I think TikTok is going to grow. First of all, I think they’re planning on launching new features to compete with Instagram shopping and Facebook shopping. So there’ll be a lot of that. I feel like it links probably advertising, a lot of brand-sponsored content as well. I know they’re in the process of evolving and I really think it is going to actually make a huge difference. I’m very curious to see how it’s going to play.

Adrian Tennant: At Bigeye, we typically categorize social media influences by the number of people following their accounts. So mega influencers have 1 million or more followers, macro influencers are those with 100,000 up to 1 million followers. Micro influencers are those with 1,000 and up to 99,000 followers. And finally, nano influencers are those whose accounts typically have fewer than 1,000 followers. Now in our preliminary research data, we see that in addition to purchasing products based on influencers, consumers are sharing those purchases with their social networks. Ksenia, are we approaching the point of which everyone with a social media account is potentially a nano influencer?

Ksenia Newton: I think it’s a good one. You can be an influencer too, right? I think it’s very important. What makes nano influencers different from the rest is first of all, our attention span is nowhere close to what it used to be, right? And you only care about those, that you either know, or they could make a huge impact in your life. I think, for example, I follow a girl from my gym, right? She has just slightly over 4,000 followers on her Instagram, but because I’ve seen her in person, she’s not my friend, but I’ve seen her in person at the gym and then I found her account. I’m a lot more likely to actually pay attention to what she is advertising. So to your point, I do think that nano influencers are going to have a huge impact. And in fact, because their audience is so much more engaged than say, you might have a hundred, thousand followers, but if you look at Instagram, your photo might get maybe a hundred likes and that doesn’t even mean anything, because as we scroll through, we just click, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. So I think nano influences are going to become a lot more important just because their audience is very concentrated, a lot more engaged, they actually pay attention versus just scrolling endlessly mindlessly scrolling through. Yeah. So with my 1,517, I believe, on Instagram. If only I can figure out what the focus should be. I can be a nano influencer too!

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, gender fluid, cis-gender, genderqueer, non-binary, trans-feminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2,000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY, reveals how beliefs across different generations influences the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to Bigeye.agency/gender.

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, trans-masculine, gender fluid.

Adrian Tennant: GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Ksenia Newton, marketing content specialist at Brandwatch. In our survey, we asked respondents how likely it is that certain scenarios will happen within this decade. Ksenia, it probably won’t surprise you to know that over one-half of gen Z respondents believe that by 2030, many retail stores will include studio space for customers to create their own videos and show product demonstrations as live streams. We’re also starting to see some beauty retailers set up like this, but do you think it could be the norm sooner than 2030?


Ksenia Newton: I’m really not surprised. Just a few days ago, I was in Madrid, and we went to a local store, I believe it was Burshka. And I saw a big LED ring light right there in the store, that would allow you to take beautiful selfies and model their clothing. And I saw people, definitely on the younger side, just try it on: jeans, jackets, spinning around, taking photos, maybe live streaming.  I wanted to stand behind and watch what they were doing, but I couldn’t. It’s not very ethical, I don’t think 2030 is the year. I think it’s already here and it’s not because it’s happening and I’m sure it’s happening a lot more than I’m aware of. It’s just, I don’t ever go and shop in stores. This is a very rare occasion. I’m more of an online person. but it’s already here and I’ve seen people do this, so it’s definitely here. We don’t need 20 years. It’s happening now.

Adrian Tennant: A trend we’re also seeing in our data is a greater interest in recycling and upcycling. Again, especially among the younger generation. In our survey, approaching one third of generation Z reported buying from a store specializing in pre-owned or vintage clothing in the past six months, with almost two in every five saying they bought pre-owned clothes or accessories from a thrift store. Ksenia, what do you think lies behind this? Is it a rejection of fast fashion or can fast fashion and thrifting co-exist?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, it’s a great question. Actually, something that I recently read from a Deloitte study and I saw in my data as well, because I am working on this new report right now, while gen Z and millennials were mostly concerned last year about their health and jobs, both generations remain deeply concerned about the environment still. So that’s one thing and also I think the pandemic has prompted many consumers to reassess something that I mentioned earlier as well, to reassess their lifestyle, and in particular, their shopping behavior as well. And I realized just how much garbage I started producing, right? I was shopping for groceries online. I realized that while everything came was delivered to me and perfectly packed boxes and plastic-wrapped and everything was perfectly fine, no damage done to the food, but at the same time, I realized just how much garbage it produces because I see this on a daily basis. So I think there is a new trend. People are reassessing how they shop. And I think fast fashion can coexist with secondhand shopping, but I also do think that a lot of people are reassessing really looking at it and into maybe when it comes to fashion specifically, maybe looking into better fabric, a more ethically produced fabric and something that they can wear over a longer period of time or to reuse the existing items. I do think it’s a new trend.

Adrian Tennant: The increase in spending on e-commerce during COVID-19 has been well-documented with almost every category benefiting from the fact that many consumers like yourself were under stay in place orders. Last year, Walmart captured 25 percent of the US e-commerce grocery market. And eMarketer predicts that Walmart will continue to outsell its main rival Amazon, at least in the grocery category. Ksenia, do you foresee e-commerce revenues in other categories remaining as strong if and or when people go back to shopping in real stores?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think consumers have gotten very used to the convenience of getting everything delivered, and going back to shopping may not be the same anymore, because a lot of the time people, even if they go to shop in stores, they actually do this kind of window shopping, right? They look at the product, they test it out, see how it feels, what it looks like, maybe how it smells, and then they go online and buy it for cheaper. So I think it’s a big problem actually for retailers. So I think e-com is going to grow big time. I don’t think it’s going to experience any slowdown whatsoever. And then I got a lot of trends, like I mentioned, the impulse buying, So it’s also there, there are things that I’m seeing right now in my data, such as different types of motivations on why people are shopping online. And that’s, sometimes you shop for something for an essential item, but sometimes you just shopping because you want to have something to look forward to. Or because you’re impulse buying. Where you need a quick dopamine fix. That’s something that I’ve been guilty of as well. So I think e-commerce revenues are going to grow for sure. So yeah, I look forward to seeing how that’s going to affect extra in-store experience and retailers as well.

Adrian Tennant: Well, you were in New York City during the lockdowns. From a personal perspective, how did your shopping behaviors change, if at all?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah. I’ve always been shopping online for the most part. But something that I mentioned already, if you have to go into the office, if you have to leave your house, you don’t necessarily see just how much garbage you’ve produced. So the fact that I was home 24/7, and everything that I’ve produced, I was able to actually see, I realized just how much garbage I started producing. From my experience, I guess the fact was that I started really looking at becoming a little bit more sustainable. And that includes buying, you know, reusable items like containers that I can just store food in, buying organically or ethically or produced food, or, not taking plastic bags and so on and so forth. That’s my perspective. I think my shopping behavior has been definitely shaped by the fact that I started seeing all these different things that I create. and now I’m trying to adjust them, whether it’s buying bottles that are reusable bottles for water or not taking plastic, whatever it is, or maybe not even buying something from a retailer or from a brand that I don’t think if their mission doesn’t really, align with my mission or my views or values. So that’s definitely been a trend in my personal life, 

Adrian Tennant: When we spoke a couple of weeks ago, you remarked that in New York City, you can order all of your essential items online and have them delivered, meaning that you never have to leave your apartment. What do you think retailers are going to need to do in order to entice shoppers like you, who’ve grown accustomed to convenience, back to physical stores for in-person shopping.

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, isn’t that a million-dollar question? I think it’s a great question. I do think the way I can be enticed into going back into the store is if maybe I was offered a special deal of some kind that’s not available online, right? Maybe there is a limited production of a particular product that’s only available in-store at a particular location within a short period of time. That creates that sense of urgency, right? That sense of exclusivity that you have to be there to be one of those people who got that exclusive deal. Maybe it’s creating this great, in-store shopping experience because online shopping is great, but it’s not for everyone, right? A lot of the time you kind of still want to have a feel of the product, the item you’re buying. So whether it’s clothing, you might want to have a good setup that you can see yourself from all different angles, or whether it’s food or furniture, whatever that is, maybe providing some additional services. I think retailers will have to work hard on actually getting their customer base back in real stores. But then again, I think it all depends on the generation. So I’m a millennial. I shop online, but not everybody shops online, so hopefully, retailers can find their audience and maybe build up on them.

Adrian Tennant:  For a report Brandwatch published on customer loyalty, you collaborated with Global Web Index, a syndicated research provider, and full disclosure here, Bigeye is a client of GWI. What did that collaboration look like? How did you use the GWI data?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, sure. We approached them about the report we were working on. And actually, GWI was very open about collaborating and combining our datasets. So they provided the data we needed alongside the social data we collected, using our platform so we could compare and contrast. I think they worked out very well, because we’re able to compare social data that we have as well as the survey data to represent everyone. That report is actually very successful. We had a lot of great feedback. 

Adrian Tennant: In that study, what factors emerged as key drivers of customer loyalty and what are some of the implications for retailers and brands?

Ksenia Newton: So the three main factors that emerged in the study were price or value for money as well as quality and delivery. And it’s something that really defines whether consumers are going to become loyal or whether they’re going to detract from the brands. So, especially, I think when it comes to delivery again, we’ve gotten so used to the convenience of having a delivery in place that customers can turn away. The customers will praise you for giving them options, whether it’s a curbside pickup or delivery, or any other type of option, but they will also go online and complain if you don’t deliver it according to their expectations. So the implications there would be as we got stuck at home for so long, our expectations started growing in terms of what e-commerce and retail brands should be delivering. So I think the implication here is e-commerce and retail brands should really work hard and kind of addressing these three key areas, whether it’s price, value for money, delivery or quality of products to kind of stay afloat and develop their loyal base because loyalty is really hard to win and consumers have become a lot more, and I know it’s a cliche, digitally savvy. We’ve been digitally savvy for a very long time, but because we’ve been stuck at home for so long, a lot more people became aware where they can buy certain products, how they can buy them, which retailers offer a particular product at a lower price, and what retailer will give them a better deal or a better delivery or convenient to you. So I think, again, branded companies need to work really hard on addressing these three key areas to deliver on the expectations that consumers have. 

Adrian Tennant: Of course it’s that time of year when, as consumers, the holidays are starting to come into view. Ksenia, do you have any predictions you can share about what this year’s holiday season shopping will look like?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, actually, great question. As you remember, last year, there were shortages everywhere. Right? A lot of people didn’t get their orders in time, not only in time, but it took months to get, whether it’s holiday or not people were ordering furniture, mid-Summer, and they just started getting their furniture maybe seven months later. So when I started noticing my data right now, as I’m working on this new report, a lot of people are trying to make sure that their orders are delivered on time. So they’re already looking for presents around for holidays. a lot of people were actually mentioned pre-order in their conversations. It’s something that I think everybody is trying to get their presence on time to make sure they don’t have any sticky situations. So I think that presents a really good opportunity for retailers, e-commerce, brands to maybe start testing different offers online, whether it’s trying to test different offer or different products. You’re just going to see what works, test it out right now. So then by the time the holiday season comes here, the right offer is in place and they can secure those sales. So the holiday shopping is not going to stop. The holiday shopping is here. I think the last year people held onto to their disposable income, not knowing what’s going to happen. But now that we’ve lived through this pandemic for this long, it has been 18 months, I think we settled, and people are willing to spend, and I can see this in the social data. People are out looking for products, they’re willing to spend. but they do a lot more research. So I think that presents a great opportunity again, for retailers and eCommerce companies to do a little research, understand what their consumers are looking for and push those deals to test the different offers and start getting them early on. Yeah, but I think this holiday season is going to be big for e-commerce.

Adrian Tennant: Ksenia, a significant part of your role is taking social and other types of data and creating stories around them that convey key insights from the data. Could you walk us through your typical process for ensuring that data stories get the points across most effectively for their intended audiences?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, absolutely. And I think a really good example to that would be what I mentioned earlier about motivations. So for example, right now I’m looking into why consumers are doing impulse shopping. So not only when I go about my research process, not only I look for what’s happening, I’m also looking into why it’s happening. So there’s a number of different motivations to why consumers are doing impulse shopping. So when I personally read reports, as a reader, when I read reports, I’m always looking for that why. What’s the why behind this? So what, and what’s the why. And I think that’s the approach that I’m trying to follow with creating these reports: not only identify what the trend is, but understand what’s behind that trend to give us just a little bit more information, to our readers. What the behavior is like, what’s causing that behavior and maybe what they can do from there. So yeah, the typical day would be really looking into social data, trying to understand what the trend looks like, what are the conversations about, where’s it being used in describing certain trends, but also understanding who is saying what? Because we are able to look at the different demographic data. We can actually split our data in terms of generations. So it’s also very interesting to look at what millennials are saying and what gen Z is saying and how they’re viewing their experiences as well as everybody else. Does that answer your question?

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. It’s interesting the way you describe it. It’s a mix of quantitative and qualitative research all bundled into one, which is unusual. And then we’re used to doing mixed methods research where we might typically start off with a qualitative focus group. To understand the issues and then design a quantitative survey based on those insights to validate at scale. Here you’re dealing quite a lot with historic data, as you say, and what people are talking about online. How do you keep that quantitative and qualitative mindset in play? 

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, it’s a great question. So we have social panels, it’s one of our features in Brandwatch Consumer Research. You can think of it as a focus group, because you can create your own demographics. So you can actually set up the generation that you want to look at. You can put age, you can look for certain criteria, for example, what people say they do. For example, if you only want to look at people who say, people who are in the medical field. So for example, right now, as part of my research, I’m looking into the impact of COVID-19 on medical professionals and the healthcare field. And I’m specifically looking for conversations where people either say, in their bio on Twitter, for example, I’m a doctor, I’m a healthcare professional. Or they say these in conversations: I used to be a doctor and so on and so forth. So in this way you can do this and you don’t even have to get anyone involved because that conversation is already available. Those insights are already available online. We just have to use the right criteria, the right filters to set this up. and Voila! You have all the data available in real-time. I would say, this is a good combination. You can look at the data using just Brandwatch Consumer Research. Look at the numbers behind, look at the mentioned volume, look at the number of how, many mentions of X, Y, and Z word, happened in, maybe earlier this year, but then you can also look at a specific population, whether it’s medical professionals with students or people who said they prefer to impulse buy, and just create the overall understanding about that particular group or that particular population. So I think that’s a good combination. I really like using social panels, especially when I have to look at a very specific subset of the population trying to understand how they feel about a particular aspect or area or product, or service.

Adrian Tennant: Great. Ksenia, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, where can they find you?

Ksenia Newton: Absolutely. You’re welcome to find me on LinkedIn, Ksenia Newton. I think I’m the only one. There might be another person, but should be at the top of the search. You can also follow me on Twitter even though I’m not as active. You’d be surprised, but I usually listen. I rarely comment, but I’m going to be there all day long just to listen, read the conversation, understand and follow, but I never really tweet, but yeah. Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter, or you can also shoot me an email. If you have a specific question, I’m happy to respond and it’s knewton@brandwatch.com.

Adrian Tennant: And if people are interested in learning more about Brandwatch, where should they go?

Ksenia Newton: Yeah, you guys are welcome to visit our website at www.brandwatch.com. Feel free to check out our blog. We have a lot of interesting insights and we just published our emoji report, which is phenomenal. So it’s brandwatch.com/blog, or also we have a whole resource section that’s free. You don’t need to subscribe, just visit our website. You can read all sorts of reports, trends, blogs, posts, and really have that understanding.

Adrian Tennant: Ksenia, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Ksenia Newton: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Chantal Schmelz: I go wherever people ask for any kind of change. So I’m, I’m really like, I’m loving the process of enabling people to love change and not be frightened about it.

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Chantal Schmelz, creative facilitator and an expert in using the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method. That’s next week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Ksenia Newton, marketing content specialist at Brandwatch. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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Audience Consumer Insights Creative & Production Direct-To-Consumer Insights Package Design Photography Video Production

Pew Research classified people born between 1997 and 2012 as members of Generation Z. Some definitions of this generation vary by a year or two, but this one appears common. Mostly, marketers have only begun to consider the distinct values and buying habits of these young people, and some still lump them in with Millennials.

Of course, it also seems like marketers only clarified the retail marketing differences needed to satisfy Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer shopping habits fairly recently. Perhaps that’s not surprising because just five years ago, Millennials surpassed Boomers as the largest population in the workforce.

Still, many members of Gen Z already have jobs, credit cards, influence, and their own strong preferences as consumers. In order for a DTC marketing agency to attract the attention, good will, and business of these 67 million young Americans, they need to study what these teens and young adults care about and how they like to shop.

Retail marketing must communicate shared values with Gen Z

Experiences formed common attitudes that members of the younger generation share. For instance:

  • Gen Z was born and raised in the shadow of 9/11, The Great Recession, the exponential increase in billionaire wealth vs. worker pay, climate change, the student loan crisis, and most recently, the coronavirus pandemic.
  • They’re digital natives, ethnically diverse, and understandably somewhat mistrustful of big business and authority.

Perhaps because of these experiences and outlooks, they try to use their pocketbooks and influence to support companies they approve of.

Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist, observed his own Baby Boomer generation could satisfy their social responsibility commitments by making a few charitable donations each year. He added that Gen Z wants to do business with companies that incorporate social responsibility into every aspect of their business. Younger people want to buy from companies that take good care of their communities, customers, suppliers, and employees, besides contribute to the greater good. 

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Gen Z appreciates pre-worn fashion

Just as Gen Z prefers companies that build social responsibility into their business model, they envision entire economies operating the same way. As an example, the idea of a circular economy inspires young people.

This means focusing upon reusing and recycling products to reduce waste and reduce costs. They care about sustainability to help the environment but also hope to maximize value.

Some examples of online apps that help people participate in this kind of circular economy include Poshmark and Depop. The apps allow users to buy and sell pre-owned items. This gives participants a chance to save or earn money, plus prioritize reuse over discarding products.

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Gen Z members enjoy in-store shopping experiences

Sure, most people grew up as digital natives. At the same time, they’re not immune to great in-store shopping experiences. According to survey results published by Marketing Dive:

  • About 80 percent enjoy shopping at stores when they have time.
  • At the same time, 75 percent admit to mostly shopping online for convenience.

Like members of older generations, they may research important shopping choices online. They will still visit a store for an in-person examination of products and a chance to connect with people behind the brand before making a final purchase.

Very often, marketers mention Lush as a brand that works hard to create an engaging onsite experience while integrating digital experiences with physical stores.

Customers get a chance to try out products and speak with helpful salespeople inside the store. As another example, customers can use Lush Lens to take photos of products in order to retrieve a list of ingredients.

This suggests that sellers with physical items for sale should work to make the experience worth the extra time to attract more foot traffic from Gen Z. Retailers should also strive to integrate in-store and online shopping as much as possible. Sellers without physical locations may need to work harder to maintain trust with actions like great customer service and a generous return policy.

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Retail packaging for Gen Z

According to research from the National Retail Foundation, brands that demonstrate authenticity, sustainability, and a bit of fun attract members of Gen Z. While these values matter a lot to younger shoppers, they also say that their brand perceptions begin with packaging.

An obvious example includes sustainable retail packaging that’s also distinctive enough to stand out on store shelves or social media posts. Go People highlighted compostable paper bottles for personal care products.

They stand up to showers with a thin lining made up of recycled plastic. Even so, they use 95-percent less plastic than typical bottles. Even better, the containers collapse as they empty, so it’s easy for people to get the last drop of product out of them. At first glance, they look like traditional bottles for high-quality boutique personal care products.

eco-friendly paper bottles

The Importance of Social Media for Connecting With Gen Z

Any retail marketing agency should emphasise the importance of using social media to connect with Gen Z. As one example, the National Retail Foundation found that almost three out of four Gen Z college students purchased products they first found on social media.

Even more than typical ads and posts, social media will help leverage input from brand devotees and influencers, who will share posts from companies and their own experiences on their feeds. In fact, almost 30 percent of the Gen Z respondents to the NRF survey admitted high enthusiasm over certain brands.

This kind of word-of-mouth advertising from true brand admirers provides an authentic recommendation that attracts other members of their social circle.

Why retail marketing should focus on Gen Z

According to McKinsey Research, Gen Z hasn’t peaked in buying power yet. That might not occur for ten to 15 more years. Smart retailer marketing should not ignore this group, just because they haven’t entirely blossomed yet.

More than making their own direct purchases, adolescents, teens, and young adults influence the buying choices of their Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer elders. Of course, younger members of this generation still rely on their families for most purchases, so they express opinions to satisfy their own preferences. They’re also active on social media and can influence a diverse social circle online.

A focus on Gen Z can help improve current sales and future-proof marketing strategies for the next several decades.

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Audience Consumer Insights Creative & Production Direct-To-Consumer Insights Package Design Photography Video Production

This article is part of #TheBigeyeLens series exploring the future of consumer behavior, purchasing decisions, and marketing trends. We’ll be talking about DTC Design Trends that are taking over.

Since eCommerce sales exploded in the past several months, online brands have enjoyed a lot more opportunities to prosper. At the same time, increased sales attracted more competition. New and established businesses began competing for attention on retail sites, search engines, and social media.

To stand out from the crowd, successful sellers looked for ways to improve DTC product design to better satisfy consumers, improve their brand image, and get found both online and offline.

In a crowded online or offline market, brands first need to uncover CPG marketing trends to learn what their potential consumers seek, besides just another jar of face cream, bottle of vitamins, or piece of home decor. With that in mind, consider these five design trends that can offer distinct competitive advantages and more effective online marketing for CPG products.

1. Sustainability

Beyond high-quality products, sustainability can also attract today’s eco-conscious consumers, as discussed in this Bigeye article about sustainable DTC packaging design. Almost everybody expresses at least some environmental concerns, and a majority of people say they’re willing to take steps to live more sustainably. When brands demonstrate that they offer the more sustainable choice, they can differentiate themselves from competitors.

Look at a couple of examples of companies that use sustainability to compete with major grocery retailers:

  • Grove Collaborative: Grove Collaborative makes it easy for consumers to conveniently and affordably buy high-quality, sustainable consumer products online. These benefits make this company a hit with growing families and other eco-conscious consumers.
  • Imperfect Foods: Typical grocers look for uniform size and color. Imperfect foods can sell too-long bananas or ugly peaches to reduce food waste and save their customers money.
  • Luma & Leaf: The natural skincare brand uses vegan, sustainably sourced ingredients to ensure that their products are kind to your skin and the environment alike. The Luma & Leaf packaging is meant to be upcycled after use to keep empties out of landfills.
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2. Vintage-inspired product designs

Harvard Business Review discussed the benefits of nostalgia as a coping tactic to help deal with stress. This sentimental feeling can make people happier, reinforce social bonds, serve as a source of inspiration, and even provide a more balanced perspective on current issues.

While some people prefer reminders of past times they actually lived through, others feel connected to decades that occurred before they were born. Overall, society may offer better current solutions today, and most people know this. Still, with nostalgia, it’s possible to take the best and leave the rest in the past.

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As an example, Today ran a segment on the way fashion tends to recycle themselves about every 30 years. They noted that the early 1990s to 2000s brought back an updated version of mod hats and flared pants from the late 1960s to early 1970s.

Right now, Gen Z has reawakened this trend. As an example, look at this vintage smiley face hat from Urban Outfitters that Miley Cyrus popularized on Instagram. Levi’s also released high-waisted, flared jeans that would fit right into 1970 almost as well as 2021.

3. Accessibility

As Unilever pointed out on a product page, people who cope with various disabilities make up the world’s biggest “minority group.” Their research found that just about 25 percent of Americans live with disabilities, and that most personal care and beauty products overlook them.

For instance, people who must deal with a limited range of motion or visual problems have trouble using typical deodorant sprays or twist applicators. In response, Unilever worked with disabled communities and product designers to develop Degree Inclusive.

The package design allows for one-handed use, even with a limited ability to grasp the container. Not only can Unilever help make a positive change in the market, they can also attract a large and underserved market.

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4. Personalization

Limited space on retailers’ shelves tends to emphasize one-kind-fits-all products. Products don’t need to take up physical space for online retailers, so consumers have the opportunity to find the perfect product to suit their budget, personality, and unique requirements.

A consumer insights agency doesn’t need to uncover products that most people will find good enough to satisfy their needs. Instead, they can work to develop many smaller subniches and markets that large competitors may overlook or choose not to focus on.

A couple of examples of companies that have succeeded with a personalization strategy include:

  • Care/of Vitamins: This brand offers a diverse selection of high-quality nutritional supplements and holistic remedies to suit each customer’s needs. Customers also say that Care/of stands out by offering personalized customer service to ensure satisfaction and the best solutions.
  • Function Beauty: Function Beauty starts by developing cruelty-free, vegan products that exclude harmful chemicals. They also offer online quizzes on their site to help tailor hair and skin products to the exact needs of each customer.

5. Photogenic products made for social sales

Neil Patel, a top influencer and founder of his own consumer marketing agency, talked about the important and difficult job of standing out on social media these days. According to Neil Patel, visual content stands as a critical pillar of successful social media campaigns.

He mentioned scientific reasons to support this outlook. For instance, visual information represents 90 percent of what’s transmitted to human brains. People also process visual information exponentially faster than they do text. After all, most kids need to go to school to learn to read but not to see.

With the idea of standing out in crowded Instagram and Facebook feeds, plus enjoying the benefits of influencers attracting a wider audience, look at some good examples:

  • Ruggable: Ruggable sells two-piece sets that consist of washable rugs and non-slip pads. They make the rugs resistant to spills and nontoxic, and the brand appeals largely to pet owners and parents who don’t want to worry about spending a lot of money on high-quality furnishings only to have them ruined by a spill or accident. The company grew their business quite a bit by using platforms to find social media influencers with the right audience. They also produce outstanding images of their rugs arranged in realistic settings.
  • Away Luggage: In 2015, Jen Rubio leveraged her own malfunctioning suitcase experience in a foreign airport as the inspiration to develop durable suitcases with handy, built-in chargers. By blanketing social media with the product, they made $12 million in sales during 2016 and achieved profitability in 2017. Though the company eventually opened a few physical stores, they do most of their business online. The pandemic hampered momentum somewhat, but Away Luggage brought in $150 million in 2019.
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Plenty of online and offline stores offer beauty products, rugs, luggage, and a variety of other consumer products. Attention to consumer preferences and trends helps products stand out, so they can compete in crowded marketplaces.

These days, look for ways to design products and packaging to appeal to customers through personalization, sustainable options, accessibility, sentimentality, and visual appeal. The right competitive edge means that brands might not need to compete so much on price and can also enjoy better returns from marketing investments.

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Branding Consumer Insights Direct-To-Consumer Implementation Podcast

This week’s podcast guest offers fresh ideas and insights to generate “customers for life”. Customer service expert and author John D. Hanson explains how to WOW today’s customers, based on extensive research into the practices of industry leaders including Amazon, American Express, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, and others. In an age of increasingly digitized customer service automation, John suggests seven ways that firms can differentiate with service excellence online and offline.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

John D. Hanson: I don’t think that it makes a difference whether you’re a B2C or a B2B because it’s all about people. So you have to invest into those relationships in a way to make sure that they’re getting their best from you.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, a full-service, audience-focused creative agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Customer experience, also known as CX, reflects customers’ and clients’ perceptions of a business or brand. Every interaction a customer has with a business, from navigating a website, to talking to customer service representatives, to actually using the product or service, impacts a customer’s decision to keep coming back or not. Done right, customer experience can increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, yield positive, online reviews, and generate word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations. So managing customer service is increasingly seen as important as other marketing tactics. And yet when we think of call centers, for example, performance is often measured more by operational efficiency than seen as a way of creating or enhancing customer value. In a hyper-competitive landscape, every touchpoint that shapes customers’ perceptions of service quality really matters. An established leader in CX, today’s guest, John D. Hanson has over 25 years of experience in customer-facing roles and is currently President of Accelerated Revenue Inc., as well as a sought-after consultant and speaker. During his career, John has worked in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business contexts: in retail, lending, credit card servicing, and industrial automation, as well as serving in the military and working with nonprofit organizations. John is also the author of the book, WOW Your Customers: Seven Ways to World-Class Service, the culmination of 18 months of research, which has sold copies worldwide. To talk about his experience and offer practical ways to WOW customers and clients, John is joining us today from his office, just outside of Columbus, Ohio. John, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

John D. Hanson: Thank you very much. I’m looking forward to our conversation today Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: So John, what prompted you to write WOW Your Customers?

John D. Hanson: Might sound a little cheesy, but it was actually a New Year’s resolution of all things. I decided I was going to spend less time at night on a digital screen and read books. And I had just started into a new sales role, the first B2B sales role I’d ever done. I thought, “I know I’ve always had a strength in customer service. How can I translate that strength into sales?” And so I took out as many well-reviewed books as I could find. And as I kept reading through these books, one thing after another, I just realized that a lot of the things that books were talking about were things that I had done. I have been on the frontline roles of customer-facing in all different kinds of industries for a good part of my life. I thought, “What if I could write a book that could help people that are either on the frontlines or managing people who are on the frontlines? What if I could do that?” So I did.

Adrian Tennant: So I mentioned in the introduction that you spend at least 18 months undertaking the research for the book, and it sounds like you did have a particular type of reader in mind when you started the writing process. I’m curious, did that change through the course of the writing?

John D. Hanson: It did actually. Yeah, because as I looked into this more and more, I realized that. Well, every company and every person at every level of an organization should value how the customers are treated. If there’s a disconnect where the person on the front lines are the nice voice and the ones that show compassion, empathy, and then there’s this disconnect when it starts going outside of that, then that’s not consistent. And then as I realized that we have eelationships, not just with external, but there are internal customers as well. And that’s where I realize, you’ve gotta be able to take good care of people, whether they’re opinion, customer or another kind of customer. And that’s where I realized that this applied more universally than just someone in a customer-facing role.

Adrian Tennant: John, in the book, you describe seven practical principles for wowing customers. Let’s talk about a few of them, starting with winning. What does winning mean in the context of customer service?

John D. Hanson: Yeah. So unlike the idea of coming in first or a gold medal, blue ribbon, and that idea of winning, this is more of a winning attitude, focusing on being a positive person. Positive, not at the expense of reality, but positive with being an energy giver, being someone that contributes to the team, someone who focuses on the solutions or is aware of the problem, but also offers solutions. Anyone can identify what’s wrong, but it takes a certain kind of person with a winning attitude that comes in and what can we do about this? When people call in and they’re talking to someone and that person can’t do a thing for them, it’s very frustrating as a customer. And that’s not a winning attitude, that’s just someone that’s punching the clock most likely, or they’ve not been empowered by their company to do what’s best for the customer so they’re stuck with “Well, what do I do? I can’t do what you’d like me to do.” So a winning attitude is something that is extremely important. It’s the thing that we can impact, the thing we can control: our attitude, how we approach our day. And that makes a big difference in the course of the day, as things go on, when we interact with customers in particular.

Adrian Tennant: The second principle I’d like to explore with you is organization. Now I can see here a connection with your military background, but could you explain how organization helps in delivering customer service?

John D. Hanson: Yeah. This was a fascinating part of research Adrian and I’ve always been somewhat analytical and organized my whole life, but I didn’t understand the science behind it until I did some research on it. What’s amazing about it is that, and you may know this, but our human brain is like a supercomputer, but everything that our eyes see, they process. And so from that, I learned that the more brown space, we call it with the desk in front of me here this color, more brown space that we have the less that our brain is slowed down by what our eyes are seeing. The fewer notes we have the fewer reminders that we have around us so the more white space we have, but also part of organization was making decisions. How do you make a decision when you need to be flexible in the course of a day, but as things come up, how do you be flexible and decide this is now more of a priority than the thing I was doing before and be okay with that? I think that’s sometimes a challenge too. We want to get it all done, but some days that’s just not possible and so being able to identify what’s most important to get done today, and those things got done and give yourself a pat on the back because you got done what needed to be done most importantly and you’ve got some other things done as well. Sometimes we’re our toughest critics on that, but organization is not very sexy. It’s not very exciting, but if you apply just some basic organizational principles, especially with how you prioritize where your time goes in a day, that can make a big difference by the end of the day, end of the week with what you’ve gotten done and how you feel about what you’ve done.

Adrian Tennant: John, how did you identify the seven principles in WOW Your Customers? Do they reflect practices that you were already using or was the process of writing the book helpful in crystallizing?

John D. Hanson: I have always liked the number seven. It’s just been a favorite of mine. And I know there’s probably more principles than this, but I thought let’s start with seven. Those were all, when I looked back at the areas that I’ve had success, those were common principles that I had in those roles. So they were always customer-facing roles of some kind or another, but all different kinds of industries. And I just noticed that in my career path, I would move up quickly and it wasn’t just because I was intelligent or hardworking. There’s plenty of people who are that. It was the combination of those things that I looked at those seven aspects and I thought if someone applies just the seven, humor’s a big one. If you aren’t finding a way to counteract the stress in a day, sometimes in the workplace, others, a lot of stress sometimes. If you’re not bringing humor with you into the workforce in a tasteful way, of course, then you’re actually shorting the team a little bit. That good humor, I know it’s an old saying, but to be good-humored didn’t mean that you were the jokester of the class. It meant that you had the steady, reliable, doesn’t matter if the world’s on fire,  this guy’s, this gal’s got it under control. That idea of being good-humored was a very important part of how you were successful, especially in the stressful times. But I would say probably the one that’s a superpower is empathy. I think if you can put yourself in other’s shoes, I think that’s maybe the one that enabled me to succeed the most, whether it was in leadership or got to be given the opportunity to be in leadership. Because it’s just something that I have naturally, since I was a kid. When a movie would be on and someone was going through something very painful or very embarrassing, I’d have to leave as a kid because I couldn’t separate myself from that character. I was feeling their pain, I was feeling their embarrassment, so it was something that was hardwired into me. Or I know with others, empathy is a kind of a learned skill. So I think that was probably, of the seven, that was probably the one that I would have came naturally with. But the others I learned over time.

Adrian Tennant: John, I know you also lead workshops based on the seven principles in the book. You’ve characterized your sessions as being about developing a fresh mindset rather than a whole new method, equipping workshop attendees, rather than educating them. What have you observed about what works and what doesn’t, when it comes to helping people develop customer-facing skills?

John D. Hanson: Oh, that’s a good question. I think sometimes, just like businesses can get wrapped up in the busy-ness of doing business, I think that can also happen, especially in customer-facing rules. It gets to be every day, so taking care of the customer is just my job. Whereas if the fresh mindset that I talk about, if people could understand that the power that they have as a frontline agent where if they transform, especially if someone calls in with an issue or a problem, and they not only take care of that, but that person leaves happy what they’ve done for the company’s future and for anybody that, that person’s going to tell, it’s massive, it’s huge. So they’re not just doing a job. What they’re doing is hopefully they’re underlining the brand of the company. They’re securing a customer where we know they could easily go somewhere else nowadays and tell plenty of people about the bad experience they had. So they’re doing a lot of things more than just taking care of issues, they’re not a firefighter. What they’re really doing is helping to keep that business with customers who are happy to be there and telling others about it as well. Because the time when customer service has proven the most is when things don’t go according to plan, when they don’t go as they should. Horrible companies with horrible service can take care of a transaction that’s smooth from start to finish. Any company can do that. The challenge is not that. The challenge is when things don’t go the way they should. How do we step up? How do we deliver? How do we take care of them? If we do well in that instance, then we’ve proven our value. And so if a frontline agent can understand that it’s more than just, take care of the thing and then on to the next thing, but seeing it as taking the very best care of that customer so that customer stays and then tells others about the good experience they had then that’s more important. Retention is more important than acquisition, meaning that the cost to acquire is five times that of retaining. So the role of a customer service agent done well, someone who’s very good at it, is actually more valuable than a salesperson that’s out there making hay and bringing in new customers because it’s the ones that stick that have more long term value than the always new.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Kathie Baptista: I’m Kathie Baptista, designer on Bigeye’s creative team. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative and advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we learn about customers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations, and develop personas that help us visualize them as real people. As a designer, I use these insights to guide my approach to crafting visually engaging solutions – and our clients see insights brought to life in inspiring, imaginative, brand-building campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye: Reaching the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

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Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2,000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, GENDER: BEYOND THE BINARY, reveals how beliefs across different generations influences the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to Bigeye.agency/gender .

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, trans-masculine, gender fluid.

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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with John Hanson, the author of WOW Your Customers: Seven Ways to World-Class Service. John, how did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your ability to conduct workshops? Did you move to online learning or did you pause the workshops?

John D. Hanson: Yeah, I moved to online. I didn’t do as many, but I did do online and still had good response from people because the biggest thing that I try to do is bring about new ideas, new mindsets, or bring a fresh definition to a word that people are familiar with but actually give either a technical definition of where they come from or what’s its origin, how do you apply it. Yeah, I still find that I can interact with an audience if it’s through a camera or in person. And what I, the feedback that I’ve gotten from people is that I’m very animated. And I’m glad to hear that because when I speak I’m that way in person. But I realized that, especially with all the zoom meetings going on, that if people are going to be having a virtual presentation, it really needs to be someone who’s obviously excited about what they’re talking about. So the feedback that I’ve gotten often is that boy, I’d love to hear you speak in person because they were obviously very excited about what you were sharing with us and it came through. That feedback was very encouraging that I was able to still engage with an audience virtually just as I do in person.

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned contact center work. As you know, online retailer Zappos takes a contrarian approach to customer service, considering its contact center, a major point of differentiation from its parent, Amazon. While contact centers are typically focused on reducing the time taken to handle customer service inquiries, Zappos has an award for those people who can stay on the phone the longest with customers – demonstrating that they really value those human conversations. John, are there other organizations that you can think of that are doing things a little differently from their competitors or counter to customer experience industry norms?

John D. Hanson: Yes. I would think of two things. One right off the top of my head is Chick-fil-A. They passed up Wendy’s as the number three chain in the US following Starbucks and McDonald’s. And they’re only open six days a week. That’s not accidental, it’s because they’re doing a lot of things right. At every location, the experience that people have is consistently good and people are treated very well there. The team members earn their way up in opportunity and management. And if you want a chicken sandwich, you can get a chicken sandwich anywhere, but it’s how they deliver that it’s how they’re taking care of their people inside and how they take care of their customers. They’re in an industry that’s notorious for poor service. Fast food is just not known for great service. And so when you get that consistently at every single location, then you know that it’s being done. Well, another idea I have is Ritz-Carlton and now they’re in the hotel industry. They have a standing rule that says up to $2,000 if something needs to be made right. Any team member – does not have to be management – any team member can do up to $2,000, can do what they need to do to make it right for that customer, for that guest. Now they rarely exceeded $500, it was usually to have a bottle of wine or a dinner or something like that, but it was the freedom that was given to every team member that made the difference. And here’s how that impacts things. So the typical occupancy rate for hotels is about 69 percent. Now, Ritz-Carlton usually charges about almost twice as much as the national average for room rates. Their occupancy rate is 76 percent so it’s 7 percent better than the national average and they’re charging almost twice as much for the room. So it is profitable and it does work and the experience that people have when they go to a Ritz-Carlton as a guest, everything is so well thought through that the experience is just unlike anything they’ve had before, and it can be very profitable when done right.

Adrian Tennant: Last year, the customer experience technology firm Servion predicted that by 2025, artificial intelligence will power 95 percent of all customer interaction, including live telephone and online conversations that will leave customers unable to “spot the bot.” John, what are your thoughts about this prediction? Do you think automation and digitization of customer service are inevitable or will humans always be able to “spot the bot”?

John D. Hanson: That’s a good question. Cause I know that when Steve pops up on the bottom right-hand corner of my screen, that it’s not Steve. It’s a chatbot that’s trying to answer, take care of my issue with a simple FAQ list they have already populated. And if my question is that simple, then that’s helpful. If it’s more complex, then that’s where it gets me to a person that’s having a conversation with someone. I think there are advantages to technology so long as companies don’t rely on that to replace the in-person. I guess we could get to the point where technology is so savvy that it’s able to do that too and people might not know the difference, but I think we’re a long ways off from that. And if people have an issue and it’s not simply addressed, then they’re going to want to talk to a real person rather than the phone trees or the whole music forever, or the options that our customers are obviously fatigued with.

Adrian Tennant: John, since the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have been forced to embrace new technologies and operating procedures to meet customer needs. I’m thinking about the rise in order online, pick up in-store, as one example. From a practical perspective, how do you think firms, looking at their customer experience should evaluate the current practices and determine what that optimal balance of real human interactions and automated processes look like for them? What are some of the issues important to consider?

John D. Hanson: Yeah. Convenience is definitely one of those things that once you let it out of the bag, you can’t put the cat back in the bag, so to speak. You can have fast food delivered to your door. You can have your groceries ready and you just pull up and they load them up and off you go. I think it opens up new areas for companies to still find a way to provide a great experience, even if it’s entirely automated, as far as the ordering process goes. So people might not be actually putting a foot in your store, but they’re still interacting with your brand. If the only interaction they’re having is the person that loads the groceries for you in the back of a car, then you’ve got one human touchpoint in that entire process that had better be a great experience. Not where the person is going overboard on things. But if they’re professional, if they’re courteous, if they’re smiling, if they say thank you very much for your business with us, then that one human interaction could make the difference between something that’s just convenient or convenient and enjoyable. So while convenience is something that companies will find how to do more and more because customers are obviously seeing the value in it and demanding it, then still, they need to make sure that the soft skills are still being invested into and still being trained and developed so that when people are using those convenient technology-driven advances, if they’re having any kind of human interaction in that process, that it’s still a top-notch experience. So training and development will still need to focus on those soft skills. I think it’s the soft skills that take the most amount of training. And for some that come more naturally than others, but it needs to be consistent.

Adrian Tennant: How do you think customer experience differs between business-to-consumer, which we’ve been talking about quite a bit, and business-to-business firms in terms of execution? Strategically, do you think the considerations are different?

John D. Hanson: I really don’t. The reason I say that is because I believe that we have four types of customers. We have an external, we have internal, we have what I call the inner circle and then we have the customer type that’s actually most important. And I found this by going to the definition of what’s a customer, where does it come from? And that’s an old English word: accustomed. So when you’re accustomed to interacting with, matter of fact at the time, it didn’t have anything to do with dollars and cents. Well, we added that aspect to it over time so a customer and its origin, it was someone that we regularly interacted with. When I realized that, I thought, well, there’s actually four subsets then of a customer. There’s the ones that are external customers that pay us money. There are internal customers, whether it be vendors, team members, leadership management. Then there’s an inner circle, which would be family and friends and true friends. Family, whether you believe it or not, we bring our family to work with us. So we are emotional human beings. We are not able to simply separate neatly when we walk in the door at work, so that’s another customer. So we regularly interact with, and they definitely need our best and these go up in priority so why you would never tell a paying customer they’re not the most important. They’re not the most important when it comes to being able to take the very best care of them. You’ve got to take the very best care of your internal people. Richard Branson said to “Take the very best care of your people so they’ll take the very best care of their customers.” It’s just more of a common-sense type thing really than anything else. And then you take care of your inner circle because those relationships directly impact at work. But the most important customer is ourselves. We’re the ones that we interact with the most. And if we don’t take care of ourselves, then there’s no way that we’ll be able to take care of the other three. So I don’t think that it makes a difference whether you’re a B2C or a B2B, because it’s all about people. So you have to invest in those relationships in a way to make sure that they’re getting their best from you.

Adrian Tennant: I really like the way that in the concluding pages of your book, you suggest ways in which the reader can internalize the seven principles. Since the book was published in 2018, what kind of feedback have you received?

John D. Hanson: I’m grateful to say I’ve sold one on every continent. Well, except for Antarctica, I haven’t sold one there. I don’t expect to either. But the feedback’s been encouraging from people. They loved it, the practical ideas, I made sure they understood that it was a menu of options. These have all worked well for me, but I recommend starting with one or two ideas first and see how they work for people. And people liked that it was easy to read, easily adjusted. I didn’t want to make a big, massive, hundreds of pages of a book that wouldn’t be enjoyable to read. So I wanted to make it something that was practical, full of great ideas that people could use right away. As soon as they read it, they can apply it in either all low or no cost to implement. And the feedback’s been encouraging that people have benefited from that. 

Adrian Tennant: I understand you’re also hosting a new online radio show. Tell us more.

John D. Hanson: Yeah. So it’s called The Heroic Experience: Elevating Business to Heroic Success. Why are we drawn to heroism? From millennia: why has it pulled up? Why is it that element of heroism always does well at the box office and in sports and other arenas? Why is heroism a fundamentally human attribute? Why do we pursue that? So I looked it up and heroine was essentially the pursuit of two ideas, a higher purpose and nobility or excellence. Well, when I saw that, then I realized that okay so it’s not a Hollywood pipe dream or something that only certain massive companies can afford too. Companies of any size can be heroic by how they go about doing business, by the stories of their customers, the stories of their team members, the stories of why they started what they did. No company got into business, no business owners, like, you know what? I think I’m going to start something and it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be, I believe they had something so good that they wanted to create a business where they could provide it to others and they want it to benefit their community and they wanted to benefit team members that would work with them in the future too. And I thought it’s just that they get busy along the way. And sometimes the business ends up running them. And I thought if there could be a show that helps as guests talk about how they have this heroic approach to how they do business, then it becomes something that becomes a magnet that attracts and keeps the team members and the clients that company wants. And it gives some ideas about how to do that as well as some stories and some examples of how they had a heroic impact in others’ lives. Yeah. I’m excited about that. I was planning to have a podcast next year. And then I was approached with the idea to have one this year and it’s fully produced. So that was something that was a huge benefit to me. So yeah, in September is when that’s going to be launching.

Adrian Tennant: It sounds exciting. John, if IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about you, your book, WOW Your Customers: Seven Ways to World-Class Service or your new radio show, The Heroic Experience: Elevating Business to Heroic Success, where can they find you?

John D. Hanson: I’m easily found, Adrian. The book is on Amazon. I worked very hard and very diligently at growing my social media family, so I have over 30,000 social media connections. LinkedIn is a great place for people to follow, so that would be a great place to connect and engage there because I love to add value. My life purpose is to encourage others – and whether that’s a business or that’s an individual – I believe that by adding value to others in a way that has tangible ideas to it, then that’s one way that I can use the social media platform to do that. I would recommend following me and connecting with me on LinkedIn. By far, that’d be a great place to start. 

Adrian Tennant: John, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

John D. Hanson: I love the questions that you had. They’re very thought-provoking and thanks again, I really appreciate it.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Ksenia Newton: Everyone is just going online, right? They don’t need to go to the store and if they do go to the store, they just do some window shop and then they go online, they find a better deal. So COVID definitely had a hand in that, for sure. And then it accelerated, big time!

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Ksenia Newton of Brandwatch, next week on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, John Hanson, the author of WOW Your Customers: Seven Ways to World-Class Service. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

Categories
Audience Analysis Audience Segmentation Consumer Insights Content Marketing Direct-To-Consumer Podcast

Doug Stephens is an internationally recognized retail futurist. His new book, Resurrecting Retail, explores the challenges today’s big-box retailers face from online giants like Amazon and niche, direct-to-consumer brands. We discuss how retailers are responding with innovative, immersive shopping experiences that bring customers back to physical stores. Doug identifies the emerging technologies that will shape the future of shopping for the remainder of this decade and beyond.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Doug Stephens: The actual shopping experience itself is, to my mind, the most powerful and manageable, and frankly, measurable form of media that a retailer or a brand possesses. The problem is most of them don’t treat it that way. They don’t treat the experience as a media experience.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye, a full-service, audience-focused creative agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. For over a year now, consumers have been adopting new shopping behaviors as a result of COVID-19. As we’ve discussed previously, grocery has seen the biggest shift from in-store shopping to online ordering with delivery or curbside pickup. But what of other product categories? The direct-to-consumer model had been making significant gains for close to a decade prior to the pandemic, driven in part by consumers discovering brands via social media, rather than traditional advertising. Retailers such as Target took note and have successfully integrated DTC brands into its mix. But other retailers are changing the entire notion of what a store is. A recent report from Nielsen IQ notes that quote “to today’s consumers ‘going shopping’ may be less about the actual act of purchasing and more about the holistic omni-powered browsing experience. As the landscape continues to evolve, the physical or online store of the future may not be a store as we know it today, but rather evolve to become more of an experience.” Our guest today predicted this evolution of retailing almost a decade ago in his book, The Retail Revival: Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism. The author, Doug Stevens, is one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists. His thinking has influenced many of the world’s best-known retailers, agencies, and brands, including Walmart, Google, Home Depot, Disney, BMW, and Coca-Cola. Prior to founding his firm, Retail Prophet, Doug spent over 20 years in the retail industry, holding senior international roles. He’s also the author of three groundbreaking books on retail innovation and a nationally syndicated retail columnist for CBC radio, as well as a featured contributor to the business of fashion. Doug’s perspectives on the business of retailing at the intersection of consumer behavior have been featured in many of the world’s leading publications and media outlets, and he speaks regularly to major brands and organizations. To talk about his work and some of the ideas in his most recent book, Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World, Doug is joining us today from his home office in Toronto, Canada. Doug, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Doug Stephens: Thank you so much, Adrian. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: So, Doug, what is Retail Prophet and what services do you provide?

Doug Stephens: So Retail Prophet is a consultancy that focuses exclusively on the future of retail and consumer behavior. And we advise brands like, BMW, Walmart, L’Oreal, LVMH, and Google, and all focused on this issue of the 5 to 10-year horizon of retail. You know, what’s changing? How are consumer behaviors manifesting in different ways? How do retailers need to plan strategies for that new environment? And certainly for an ever-changing competitive landscape, not the least of which have been many of the changes that we’ve seen in the last year or so.

Adrian Tennant: Doug, did you find retail or did retail find you? I’m curious, did you have any family members that worked in retail when you were growing up?

Doug Stephens: I did actually. My elder sister spent many years working in department stores, and she worked with Macy’s, but that in no way, shape or form influenced my decision to get into what many call, the accidental profession, retail. But it did turn out that it was one of my first, I’ll call it, real jobs uh, after getting married. I got into retail very much on the ground floor of the industry as a young person, kind of working my way up through the ranks of retail companies in both Canada and the US. Starting on the sales floor and finishing as the general manager of a relatively large US company. So that was the beginning. And then, in 2009, I founded Retail Prophet, having had the experience of working in the retail industry and experiencing firsthand how shortsighted an industry it tended to be. As you can appreciate around 2008, 2009, the whole world was sort of imploding. The economic landscape was changing, technology was rapidly changing, certainly a changing of the guard demographically in terms of consumer groups. And so it seemed to me at that point that the world needed a narrative that was looking out on this horizon with a little bit more prescience perhaps than the usual reactive nature of retail.

Adrian Tennant: Your second book, published in 2017, is entitled Reengineering Retail: The Future of Retailing in a Post-Digital World. Doug, what did you mean by post-digital?

Doug Stephens: Yeah, the term was chosen very deliberately, because it was my feeling, Adrian, that by 2017, the presence of digital or the presence of technology in a consumer experience was really no longer a novelty or a surprise. It was my belief – and I maintain that belief – that we live in a world where consumers I think are more surprised these days by the absence of technology than by its presence. You know, we’re sort of mystified when we find ourselves in a situation where we can’t benefit from the introduction or from the use of technology. Just to give you an example, I was in a big box store just this last week and I asked a pretty simple question regarding a product that I believe that they might’ve had and it was sort of reduced to guesswork on the part of the sales associate. I asked if they had a certain product and they said, “I think we do. And I think it’s over here.” And in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Well, are you telling me that there isn’t a piece of handheld technology or some other piece of technology that can’t tell you exactly where that product is in your store?” So again, I think as consumers, these days, we are more surprised when there’s an absence of technology to assist us then than when there is. So I believed for that reason, we were really living, not in a digital world, but in a post-digital world.

Adrian Tennant: One of the themes you introduced in Reengineering Retail and expand upon in your new book, Resurrecting Retail, is the idea of the store as media. Now, as you know, one of the fastest-growing areas of ad placement is in-store media, with retailers including Walmart, Target, and Kroger creating in-house solutions to offer ad space to CPG brands that they sell. But that’s not what you mean, correct?

Doug Stephens: That’s correct. Yeah. That’s not what I’m referring to. What I mean is that the actual shopping experience itself is, to my mind, the most powerful and manageable, and frankly measurable form of media that a retailer or a brand possesses. The problem is most of them don’t treat it that way. They don’t treat the experience as a media experience. Historically, as retailers, we’ve gone out to the open market. We’ve bought media, we’ve bought advertising in an effort to acquire customers, to gather brand recognition or brand awareness. And then if we’re successful in doing that, we move those consumers to a point of distribution or points of distribution to transact sales. The problem is stores are now the media itself and media in many ways is becoming the store. As a consumer now, I don’t look at advertising as a mere call-out to go to a store. The advertising is the store. I can buy directly from TikTok, from Facebook, from Instagram, from any piece of media that falls within my grasp. So many retailers would say, “Well, if media is becoming the store, does it not negate the necessity for stores?” And my argument is no, not at all, because it’s actually a trading of roles. Physical stores are becoming a very powerful media channel. And I’ll just explain very briefly what I mean by that. We have to sort of start from a place where we accept that the going in, the premise of effective media is that there is an audience for it. Obviously, we want to try and create media experiences, wherever there’s an audience that can enjoy that. If we go back a thousand years ago, that point of gathering an audience was the marketplace. That was really the primary channel through which consumers got information, where they communed, where they connected with friends and family, and ultimately where they conducted commerce. Over time, that was displaced somewhat by other forms of media, whether it was print media, radio, television. And today, of course, digital is the campfire that we all gather around. But the problem is digital is actually becoming prohibitive as a means of acquiring customers. From a cost standpoint, there are brands today already that are saying, “Look, we just cannot afford to acquire incremental customers using digital media. The cost is too high. And in many cases, it exceeds the lifetime value of that consumer.” But when I refer to stores being media, I’m certainly not talking about the networks that, as you mentioned, many retailers are putting in their stores to just inundate us visually and audibly with more and more advertising. I’m suggesting that the experience that I have in a Kroger is actually the most important form of media that Kroger can execute. So it’s a different philosophy entirely.

Adrian Tennant: In Resurrecting Retail, you define retail archetypes. Doug, how did you arrive at this concept?

Doug Stephens: The idea of brand archetypes is not new. Brand archetypes have been around in conversation in marketing circles for years now. But this notion of retail archetypes came out of a conversation I was having with a fellow named Ben Kaufman who’s the founder of a store called Camp in New York City, they now have multiple locations. But Ben was talking about this toy store that he started – Camp – and suggested that the issue confronting every retailer is that they need to be the answer to a consumer question, but the question can’t simply be, “Where can I buy a toy?” or “Where can I buy a new pair of shoes?” or “a new dining room set?” because the answer to that increasingly is “anywhere.” Go online and in five minutes you can have a thousand different choices of places to buy toys. His point was that brands need to become the answer to deeper questions. So in his case, he said, we are not the answer to the question, “Where can you buy a toy?” We are the answer to the question, “Where can I go with my child to spend quality time, to have really meaningful time, time well spent?” So this conversation sort of got me thinking. If that’s a question that consumers are asking, “Where can I go to spend valuable time?” then what other questions are they asking? What other questions can brands be the answer to? And so I began to really explode that thinking out and looking at it across different boundaries. So can brands be leaders in the cultural space? Can they be a lightning rod for social issues, for environmental issues? Yeah, absolutely. A brand like Patagonia doesn’t answer the question, “Where can I buy outdoor apparel?” Because again, the answer to that is anywhere. Patagonia answers a different question. That is: “Who aligns with my values? As a human being, what brand out there is resemblant of my values as a person?” And so I just started really looking at this at a more granular level, you know, and really trying to explore many of these evergreen questions that consumers are asking that brands can step up and be the answer to. Because I think that all brands today find themselves in this same place, Adrian. It’s that no matter what you sell, the internet has commodified it. The consumer has an endless well of choice in every product category. So every brand needs to be the answer to a deeper question or a more important question than “Where can I get this product?” And if you can be, if you can manifest that, not just by declaring it, but by animating it through every fiber of your brand and every consumer interaction, then you take on a completely new position in the marketplace. And the term I use in the book or the phrase I use in the book is that purpose is the new positioning. Forget about your SWOT analysis, your Boston matrices, your omnichannel sales plan. The first question that every brand today needs to answer is: “What is our purpose to consumers? What fundamental need do we satisfy by virtue of our presence?” And if you can figure that out and bring it to life, then you can sort of move on to strategy part two. But this is a fundamental question that we have to answer.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals – often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own primary research, we develop a deep understanding of our clients, prospects, and customers, analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us – email info@bigeyeagency.com. 

Adrian Tennant: I’m Adrian Tennant, the host of IN CLEAR FOCUS, the weekly podcast from Bigeye, featuring marketing professionals sharing their advertising strategies and tactics that are working today. Whether you’re an in-house brand marketer or an agency-side partner; a DTC startup or an established enterprise, I invite you to join me for lively conversations with guests that you won’t hear anywhere else. Fresh perspectives on the business of advertising served weekly IN CLEAR FOCUS. 

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with retail futurist Doug Stephens, CEO of Retail Prophet and author of Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World. Of course, you’ve interviewed many retail professionals as part of the research process for your books and included interviews in your own podcasts. Are there one or two who stand out to you as being particularly innovative or visionary in their approach to creating the retail experiences of tomorrow?

Doug Stephens: Yeah. You know, I think there are certainly a lot of phenomenal people doing a lot of amazing things. But I really enjoy talking to people who I regard as being pioneers. You know, people that really went out on a limb intellectually, to try to kind of poke a hole in the universe as it were, as it applies to retail. So I mean, people like Rachel Shechtman, for example, who founded Story in New York City way back in 2011, hard to believe it was a decade ago. But a store that really was the ultimate media experience. It was really a store that was designed to be like an editorial experience, a community experience. A store that really did not rely on the sale of product, but really, made most of its revenue through brand endorsements and activating brand experiences. So, you know, people like Rachel that really, as I say, were tremendously innovative and taking risks at the time. I would also include in that, someone like Vibhu Norby, from a company called b8ta, that again said, “You know, maybe there’s a different way of monetizing products at retail, and maybe it’s not through the sale of the product, but rather by capturing the data of interactions between consumers and those products. And maybe there’s a means of monetizing that data through subscription with brands who are interested in getting that sort of market information and consumer information.” So it’s really folks like that that I regard as the true explorers, you know, in this industry and the people that forged a new path that I think, frankly, it’s taken a decade for many people in the industry to appreciate.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we heard recently that WeWork is rumored to be collaborating with Saks Fifth Avenue to create spaces that combine areas for working and retail. What are your thoughts?

Doug Stephens: So when the story broke, as, as you can imagine, the peanut gallery that exists in the retail industry had a lot to say about it. There were kind of boos and mostly boos and jeers coming out of the audience on this when people couldn’t fathom, like, “What’s the connection here? Why would Saks Fifth Avenue be looking to create co-working space and who on earth would want to pack their lunch every morning and head off to a department store to work?” And on the face of it, I’m the first to admit it doesn’t seem like a natural parent but I think that what you have to appreciate in order to understand this move is that HBC – Hudson’s Bay Company, the corporate entity – is not really a retailer. And I mean, let’s face it, they haven’t been a retailer for about a decade. They are a real estate holding company. That’s really, to my mind anyway, that’s what they do. And the last decade of moves, frankly, have been focused on real estate, not on retail. I would argue that HBC hasn’t really had a retail strategy, you know, for many years. So if we look at this as a strategic move by a company that believes fundamentally that most of the space that it holds as assets are really just that they are real estate assets. Then looking at trying to optimize those real estate assets makes perfect sense. You know, asking yourself “What else could be in this space? How else could this space be utilized or have value?” And so on that level, I appreciate their curiosity. I appreciate their willingness to experiment with things that do make people stand up and say, “What the hell is that all about?” You know, we need more of that, you know? And frankly, if everyone agrees with something that you’ve done and believes that’s the right thing to do, then it probably wasn’t that innovative in the first place. So whether or not they’ll succeed is beside the point. I think the two key points are first and foremost, HBC is not a retail company. They’re a real estate company. And secondly, they too are just prodding and poking at the universe, trying to understand where there might be value, where there could be a wellspring of value. So I don’t fault them for that.

Adrian Tennant: Well, staying with rumors, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Amazon has plans to open several large physical retail locations in the US that will operate like smaller department stores. This could extend the company’s reach in its sales of clothing, household items, electronics, and other categories. So Doug, what’s your take on this latest development from Amazon?

Doug Stephens: Yeah, it’s a really interesting development. It’s one of those that when you read it, you say, “I’m not surprised.” It’s not surprising, but it’s certainly interesting and compelling. And in a weird sort of way, you know, one of the old credos in any investment community is that you try to determine where everyone is running to. And if you’re smart, then you run in the opposite direction and right now, the retail industry as a whole is running away from physical retail and running toward digital. So what does Amazon do? Amazon takes exactly the opposite approach and they run toward the physical world. Now, this isn’t Amazon’s first foray into physical retail. Of course, they bought Whole Foods several years ago. They have opened Amazon Go stores, Amazon Four-Star stores and if we’re being completely honest, their track record in physical retail isn’t that extraordinary, really. Having said that, this makes a lot of sense. There are things that are simply difficult to buy on Amazon and difficult to buy on any retailer’s website, frankly, things that require more consideration, things that require touch and feel, complex products that really require more information or confidence before a consumer’s willing to make a purchase. And of course, apparel falls into that category as well. So that makes sense. This also provides a local logistics point, a point to distribute products from, a point to collect returns from, which would only add efficiency to Amazon’s bottom line. It also gives them an opportunity to collect more data about how consumers shop in physical environments. Amazon knows full well how we behave online, but it gives them an opportunity to create yet another data point in the marketplace to begin to connect consumer behavior between the online world and the physical world. And then there’s the more sinister side. It also gives them the ability, as we know from past announcements, it gives Amazon the ability to absolutely tank the market caps of companies like Kohls, who could potentially even become acquisition targets. We know that anytime Amazon merely clears its throat and sort of fixes its gaze on a category, they have a tendency to really rock the market caps of incumbents in those categories. We’ve seen them do it in the pharmacy sector. We’ve seen them do it across various categories. So that could be potentially the play here as well. But I think the big message to the marketplace, Adrian, and my opinion is that this is a warning shot across the bow of all physical retailers. And most specifically, I’m thinking of categories that have sort of dodged the bullet up until now, categories like home improvement. If Amazon can open a quote-unquote “department store” and sell in the physical world, well, that brings them one step closer to selling lumber and concrete and building supplies and maybe doing a much better job of it than the incumbents in that category. So, I think everyone has to take this very seriously. And above all, Amazon has the luxury to spend a tremendous amount of money doing this and sticking with it and experimenting. So, yeah, not a surprise. It could have many, many strategic dimensions, but something that everyone in the retail industry should be taking note of, for sure.

Adrian Tennant: Doug, you’re the author of three books, a consultant, a podcast host, a writer, a keynote speaker. That’s a lot to juggle. What’s your process for generating consistently high-quality thought leadership content across multiple platforms?

Doug Stephens: Oh, thank you for that. I guess the first thing is, you know, cast a wide net. Retail doesn’t exist in a vacuum. No industry exists in a vacuum and retail, perhaps more than others, is affected by a number of different things. So I look to pop culture, music, politics, and art. All of these things are places of great value and categories that influence consumer behavior. So I think we can learn a lot from looking outside the retail category as well. I think the other thing is to look for a counter-narrative. Industries like companies tend to succumb to groupthink, so always look for what others might be missing. For example, in Resurrecting Retail, as the pandemic sort of took its toll on the industry, a lot of people were pointing to the idea that the pandemic was really just an acceleration of trends that were already in play. And it would be easy to jump on that narrative train and just run with it. But my feeling was that there were probably deeper undercurrent things that would have only happened as a consequence of the pandemic that might actually have a more devastating impact on the industry. So I went digging for those, you know, digging for the counter-narrative. And then finally, don’t simply document facts, because the internet does a wonderful job of that for us. Tell stories, put your facts and information into the form of a story that people can actually embrace, they can assimilate, and they can build into their practice, going forward. Stories are probably the most powerful way to help people learn. So those are some of the things anyway that I follow. And it seems to work.

Adrian Tennant: So Doug, when it comes to securing new clients for Retail Prophet, which of the content channels work best for you? Is it keynote speaking events, the books, or the podcasts?

Doug Stephens: That’s a great question. And frankly, it’s one that I’ve never really even thought about that way – I’m almost ashamed to admit that I don’t personally pay much attention to which channels are more effective or less effective or where we have an audience. You know, we have people here that do that. I tend not to be one of them. But the way I look at it is this: I think that ultimately your brand is a zeitgeist of all that you bring to all channels. It’s every piece of content that you put out. It’s every narrative that you create. And ultimately, I think that it has to be provocative. It has to be challenging. It has to give people the sense that they’ve grown by virtue of listening to you. They may not agree with everything you’re saying, but it’s expanded their thinking and presented them maybe with an alternate view. And I think if you can consistently deliver quality, regardless of channel, ultimately you will create a market, you will create a tribe, so to speak, that follows you, and powers your business. So that has always been my focus is really, regardless of channel, just always try to create something that people remember and that people appreciate.

Adrian Tennant: That’s great advice. If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners, would like to learn more about you, Retail Prophet, your podcast, or your books, where can they find you?

Doug Stephens: The mothership is RetailProphet.com. And if you go there, you’ll find links to everything else: books, podcasts, articles, you name it. RetailProphet.com, and that’s Prophet with a “P-H.”

Adrian Tennant: Doug, thank you very much for being a guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Doug Stephens: It was my pleasure indeed, Adrian. Thank you very much.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Doug Stevens, CEO of Retail Prophet and author of Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just select “Podcast.” Now, if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.