October 26, 2017

The Spirit of Halloween Spending

As Halloween approaches this year’s spooky spirit is at an all time high.
According to the National Retail Federation's Annual Halloween Survey on eMarketer, Halloween spending will increase by 8.3% from last year with record spending at 9.1 billion. Now that’s a lot of candy!
The excitement for creepy lawn decor, trick-or-treating and late night costume parties is nothing new, but our path to purchase is evolving and becoming more complex. Luckily, more sources of inspiration have become available with the increased use of social media platforms. But the real heavy lifting of idea generation can be attributed to Halloween enthusiasts and creative people alike, who are sharing them on social platforms for all to snag.
Interestingly enough, for planned Halloween purchasing channels, the survey shows online ranked as number five; behind discount, Halloween, grocery, and department stores.
The NRF reported that 35.2% of respondents conducted online searches for Halloween celebration inspiration with Facebook and Pinterest as top choices, but stats show that those searches are not converting to ecommerce. This means that over a third of the American population is using online sources for costume, decor and treat ideas before they plan to step foot in brick and mortar stores.
Retail is reminded of how important it is to be aware of influencers in the customer journey. But it’s exciting to see holiday spirit grow as it can only mean good things for the industry and hopefully some pretty sweet costumes!
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

June 16, 2017

Amazon Buys Whole Foods – Our Reaction

There’s of course a lot of investment politics behind the deal that have little to do with better meeting an end customers’ needs. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has had a few different things to say this week about the potential and the conclusion of the deal.

However, Amazon’s choice to purchase a premium brick-and-mortar grocery brand with a national footprint represents the potential for some pretty radical changes coming to retail that have been knocking on the door all along.

We’ve been talking about clicks and bricks and “Tearing Down the Walls” between the mobile/online customer experience in this blog for a few years. The location-based, real-world, in-store needs of brick-and-mortar shoppers that are able to be addressed by mobile technology has been a very hot subject for awhile but to date we haven’t seen anything of this scale.

Amazon has dabbled in brick-and-mortar with a series of tests over the past few years and the retail industry has questioned, “why not grocery?” but this acquisition seems to validate the location strategy of brick-and-mortar real-estate as an asset for a previously “online only” delivery-based business model.

The equity and positioning of these two brands together stands to unlock a lot of potential for mobile experience at brick-and-mortar retail that has only been a bit of dabbling to date, by comparison.

Expect to see fluid options between grocery delivery, curbside or in-store pickup based on mobile shopping lists with options for one-click ordering as users manage their needs on-device and fully integrate that support into their grocery routines. Mobile store maps, product suggestions and timely cross promotion of merchandise between a user’s purchase history and live inventory could all come to life in a new way.

Of course, every grocery shopper is not an Amazon grocery shopper or a Whole Foods Shopper and the operational and cultural realities could present significant challenges, but if the merger of their respective retail worlds is well executed, the potential to lead by example in the field of total customer experience seems truly massive.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

May 16, 2017

What is a Lead Agency?

Every brand relies on external resources to round out their marketing operations.

Even businesses with fully functional internal marketing departments or a dedicated team rely on specialists and vendor partners for various execution needs, including data management, application development, media placement, etc. If those processes become too fragmented or the internal team needs support that can't be filled with a new hire, brands often look to find another partner to help sort it out.

So what defines the right partner? How broad does their expertise need to be? Is the need one of strategic oversight or more tactical? Is it narrow and deep or broad and varied? Does the partner need to deliver a better approach through recommendations or implement plans and deliver on the results?

In the past decade or so, we’ve seen a rise in the variety and number of specialized agencies and digital consultancies that challenge the model of full service ad agencies. We’ve also seen more traditional agency models adjust to the changing needs of clients by expanding capabilities through internal development, acquisition and strategic partnership.

Regardless of the accelerated change occuring in our industry, a marketing partner’s strengths must align with the client’s prioritized needs.

Wherever they land in the spectrum and regardless of the vocabulary, most firms operate as tactical teams or strategic advisors but rarely deliver both in a unified way. The client is served in specific facets of execution or from a high-level POV but can often be left feeling a little unglued.

So what’s the solution? Amid all of this, the brand itself or one of the marketing partners must operate as “lead agency.” This has become apparent as brands team up with multiple partners and vendors. Specialist partners don’t just have blind spots, they tend to have tunnel vision on their area of focus. Full-service agencies on the other hand may be able to see the big picture and connect more of the dots but will inherently also have some strengths and some weaknesses.

So, you might be asking. "What is a Lead Agency? Is it the same thing as a full-service agency? Is it an integrated agency, an agency of record, a brand partner agency, a digital agency, a creative agency, a media agency, a consultancy?"

Let’s put the vocabulary aside and just define it: A lead agency can function as a full-service marketing partner, but they must understand priorities and the capabilities must fit. They have to be able to consult and deliver a clear vision, but the role can’t stop there. In an industry where collaborating partners often compete like siblings for client favor, a lead agency is able to defy that tendency and act as an extension of the brand’s internal marketing team in advising and serving the business’ internal leadership. They must provide real value to the brand’s stakeholders, including partners, and most importantly, customers in the form of service, support, direction and execution.

A lead agency knows how to keep the business objectives at the forefront, design the right measurement plans and inform the correct strategy to pursue and assess results. A lead agency is able to help everyone in the equation deliver more value on the client’s own terms.

Our next post profiles a few different perspectives on how lead agencies are expanding their roles. Check it out.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

January 13, 2017

Is 2017 the year for Social Commerce?

Social Commerce: A type of electronic commerce that employs social media to promote online transactions.
Popular opinion and common sense both point to social commerce as an emerging evolution of e-commerce. However, conversion data does not support this expectation. Discussion about why social media is receiving little to no credit for sales is a hot topic right now. Ultimately, the questions all boil down to this answer:
A social media user is not there with an intent or even expectation to purchase. They are there to be social.
Read more

January 23, 2015

Understanding the Milestones of Your Customers' Journey

If you’ve worked with us you already know how important the entire customer journey is to our approach across channels. From ignorance to consideration to intent, purchase and advocacy, we live by the omnichannel media “layer cake.” It allows each channel do what it does best to move your customer through a complete experience.

Understanding your broadest customers, your best customers and your greatest opportunities to serve them all is the code we live by. Smart measurement is the key to continuous optimization.

This week Google released a pretty simple and fun-to-use tool showing where various digital channels serve best, by industry and geography, across the whole customer journey. The more we can understand how our investments are supporting each other and assisting in the conversion of customers (not to mention their ongoing satisfaction beyond a sale) the more wisely we can allocate resources and move the needle, by design.

 Use Google's Channel Position Tool  |  Download the Guide

Jeff Smack
Digital Communications Director

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