February 22, 2018

LinkedIn, J. Crew and WeWork – Unlocking Personal & Professional Brand Potential

It’s a fascinating time to be alive. As a society, our connected experience is no longer straddling the line between “the real-world” and online — it’s distributed through both and fully interwoven.

Anchoring this point, a new alliance has caught our eye. Linked In x WeWork x J Crew have joined together in a very interesting partnership. Each partner has a different reason for existing, but all three merge elements of the other’s primary customer experience.

The fashion brand J Crew, is searching for a radical shift in strategy to succeed in modern retail world. Partnering with LinkedIn and WeWork, they benefit from direct access to entrepreneurial customers who already understand the value of looking clean and stylish.

WeWork and LinkedIn view this opportunity as another way for their brand to serve their customer’s professional image and meet the needs of their mutual audience segment.

Whether this experiment takes off or not, we expect to see more of this kind of corporate teamwork, as brands strive to unlock their experiential potential.

More on the story over at Retail Dive.

 
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

December 12, 2017

Five Key Lessons Shared Between Non-Profits and Franchise Businesses

Recently, I’ve had some very honest and candid chats with some national non-profit leaders about the future of fundraising. Simultaneously, I’ve been talking with local franchise owners about the greatest challenges they face — regarding everything from communications to operations.
As it turns out, their challenges and struggles echoed each other. Be it easing cultural tensions, improving communication, encouraging mission alignment, or fostering consistency, many of the same issues keep them up at night. Between the two segments, I’ve distilled some parallels and will outline here five key lessons that local franchise owners can learn from national non-profit leaders.
1. Everyone can fund raise, but not everyone is a fundraiser.
To be a skilled fundraiser takes training and practice. Just because someone has the desire to go out and raise money, does not ensure they will be successful. Even if they are successful, it doesn’t guarantee that the success will be sustainable. Instead, train your people for the skills you need. Training should happen every time someone joins, but should also be on-going. Teaching the skills needed enables both success and sustainability.
2. It’s critical to connect people to your mission.
For non-profits, connecting people to their mission is the key to keeping the lights on. When individuals and corporations believe what you’re doing matters, then they show their support through donations and gifts. However, as more and more non-profits develop and ask for donations, the mission becomes a critical differentiator between them and their competition. Likewise, as the number of businesses increase and therefor competition, why you do what you do becomes as important as how you do it or what you offer. Know your mission, live your mission, and clearly communicate your mission so others can align with you.
3. Plan on people making it personal.
The more people invest in something, the more it matters to them. This investment could be time, money or both. Whether it’s the woman who dedicates hours volunteering for a cause because she or a family member is affected by a disease, or the husband and wife team who poured their retirement savings into buying into a franchise store. When it matters, it becomes personal. Channeling this passion can be an organization’s greatest challenge. To do so, give people a chance to express themselves. Listen as they express their concerns or share their ideas. Empower people to use their passions and motivations in creative ways. Give them a platform and the support needed to plan their Do-It-Yourself fundraiser, or design their own local marketing outreach. Yet, be clear and direct in policies and procedures so they know where the boundaries are.
4. Think global, act local.
The best executives always remember that for both non-profits and franchises, many of the most critical decisions happen quickly and at the local level. It’s easy to fall back on the national name recognition and forget about how stressful the small business environment can be. It’s tough! But, always remember to prioritize your goals, and work toward reaching one goal before moving on to the rest.
5. Incentivize initiative and show your appreciation.
Above all else, remember to say thank you. Be it volunteers or franchisees, expressing your gratitude matters. And it’s usually the little things that mean the most. A coffee mug filled with chocolates, a t-shirt with a note, these small things let the individual know that their hard work is noticed and appreciated. You can even set incentive levels to reward good work along the way. However, be weary of saying thanks with things. If you go too far and give someone too nice of a gift, it makes the whole experience transactional, cheapens it, and demotivates. Instead to motivate employees, thank then sincerely and frequently with small, appropriately sized gifts.
Though I never recognized it, the similarities between the national non-profit and the franchise business models are striking. Both have a national brand supported by local factions, yet, though connected by name, these chapters or stores often operate independently. So, it makes sense that they share similar struggles. All of these listed takeaways represent real organizational challenges for both non-profits and franchise businesses. They are all primarily people concerns and every organization will benefit from realizing it’s living, breathing, human value.
Jane Broadbent
Senior Strategist

November 8, 2017

2017 Holiday Shopping Forecast — Black Friday is No Big Deal?

Black Friday is here again! Well not here, yet. But that’s how it's worked for years, it’s here even before it’s here, right? It’s the big event before the big event. Retailers and the advertising industry create news and events around announcing that it's almost here. Getting the engines primed, right? In the meantime, Amazon is dominating the early deals game, announcing Black Friday action, 50 days early! So yeah, it’s here.
Black Friday is still the single biggest day of spending and shopping on the calendar. But while online opportunities expand, popular attitudes around friday-focused brick-and-mortar feeding frenzies have cooled a bit. Two years ago REI made noise with their OptOutside campaign, staying closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in a sort of sacredly secular celebration of the outdoors and non-consumerism — and generated a lot of conversation in the process. They stuck to it last year and just announced they will continue the tradition moving forward.
Then last year we saw more stores choosing to stay closed on Thanksgiving.
Even the Mall of America closed on Thanksgiving last year, opening at a tasteful 5am on Friday morning. Malls are feeling the pinch as much as any individual retailer as spending continues to rise, but primarily in newer transaction channels. Malls are generally claiming a desire to spare the employees and the shoppers all that stress but reducing overhead in the face of stiff competition is also pretty fundamental.
So what does that mean for expectations this year?
According to a study from Field Agent, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are polling at just over 50% of respondents saying they are “very likely” to shop on those days. The question now is not so much about When or, which days will get the most sales activity — but rather Where and How will customers choose to shop this year? Over half of respondents said they plan to buy “most” of their holiday gifts online. This is the first year this expectation has hit a majority percentage.
With shifting behaviors we also see shifting values. “Affordability” and “quality” are top values this year, while “traditions,” and “brand names” are falling to the bottom of the pile. Amazon is loving it, Macy’s not so much. Macy’s and Nordstrom are forecast to see outright declining sales through holiday season as malls struggle to draw shoppers.
Amazon, WalMart and Target lead the field for retailers overall. Amazon.com soundly dominates the website category with 62% of shoppers expecting to use it. WalMart.com is #2 at 11%. Amazon and WalMart also lead with customers in the mobile app category.
With online and mobile shopping sliding into the forefront of all shopping experiences this year it only makes sense that the in-store frenzy of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping may be a thing of the past. The same study cites a lot of frustration from a majority of shoppers around overcrowded stores with under-trained agents and fickle availability of in-demand inventory. These realities may accelerate the trend toward better shopping experiences that hinge on more convenient technology.
Make no mistake that physical stores are an asset to the brands that use them well and staff them well. But the familiar narrative around Black Friday highlights some very apparent pain points for customers. And in turn, smart technology and savvy shoppers have deemed all that FOMO and frenzy to be an easy trade off for a happier holiday experience.
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

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

October 20, 2017

Contemporary Coupons — More Than Old Fashioned Value

I was the kid that thought it was fun to cut the coupons out of the Sunday paper then sort and organize them for the proper category placement in my mom’s coupon organizer. Sure, you could call that OCD, but it instilled in me a habit that still holds true today.
Couponing.
No longer am I waiting for the Sunday paper, but rather, going to my grocery store’s website and loading the coupons straight to my loyalty card. Why, because, well who doesn’t like to stumble upon a good deal and save a little money. Free pint of Haagen Dazs, yes please!
This trend doesn’t end with the grocery store. Within minutes of searching, customers can find a discount or online coupon within a variety of retail categories.
And these savings aren’t just targeted to those of us that grew up with physical coupons, they have also transcended generations. Millennials are savvy and fickle shoppers. They aren’t as brand loyal and their willingness to buy private-label brands and try lower price brands has kept retailers on their toes. It’s their desire for a good value that will lead to choosing the brand that offers a discount.
And with the availability to find savings online and load them to a loyalty card or combine multiple coupons through an app, these fickle shoppers have become frequent online couponing users.
Now the question is, how to keep your brand top of mind for these millennial shoppers. Maybe it’s following the Bed Bath and Beyond method. Their coupon for 20% off shows up at my house and in my inbox regularly. Sure, I rarely use it, but when I need something and I don’t have the physical coupon, the first place I go is online. Just having it available when I need it is a definite perk.
Now, if only there was a digital coupon organizer. Good thing there is an app for that: Krazy Coupon Lady. Might have to give that a try!

Christie Hach

Account Director

October 11, 2017

The New Retail Ecosystem Needs Traditional Chains

Twenty years ago, I watched the movie You’ve Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and hated the fictional big chain Fox Books (owned by Hanks) for driving Ryan’s small, independent book store out of business. After the closing is inevitable, Ryan writes in one of their AOL Messenger exchanges, “My store is closing this week. I own a store, did I ever tell you? It’s a lovely store, and in a week it will be something really depressing. Like a Baby Gap.”
For years, the traditional retail chain has been the villain. Retail chains so big that small, independent stores can’t compete. They get squashed by the 600-pound gorilla who sits wherever he wants. But the fallout from the Toys “R” Us bankruptcy suddenly casts this movie in a new light. The big chain retailers are still 600 pound gorillas, able to drive the independent stores out of business. But now they are equally endangered, and the success of entire industries rests on their survival.
The mighty Amazons and Wal-Marts of the world have left the single category chains vulnerable.  However, it is imperative that these big chains do not die. Much like how the 600-pound gorilla is an apex predator in its ecosystem, single category chains are apex stores in the retail ecosystem. Traditional retail chains now anchor the brick and mortar shops by giving suppliers a place to sell goods at full price, year-round. They provide the manufactures with a place of resistance against the price wars indicative of the online and big box retailers. This explains the unwavering vendor support Toys “R” Us has been getting since its bankruptcy announcement last week. Toys “R” Us is the last remaining single toy chain standing. If they fail, suppliers will lose their last leverage point.
Isaac Larian, founder and chief executive office of the toy manufacturer MGA Entertainment, Inc. described the importance of the relationship, “Oh my God, they are very important, and people don’t understand. I’ve always said that is there is no Toys “R” Us, there is no toy business.” Larian said he has already shipped his holiday goods to Toys ‘R’ Us and will continue to do so, and he is one of many toy vendors saying the same. Why? Suppliers know that without Toys ‘R’ Us, the toy industry will topple.
The toy industry’s dependency on Toys ‘R’ Us as a single category chain is not unique. Best Buy holds up the electronic industry after the closings of Circuit City and HHGregg. Home Depot and Lowes share the responsibility in the DIY home improvement industry. And Barnes and Nobles now bears the cross after Borders’ liquidation. Without these single category, traditional retail chains there would be no single electronics industry; no single DIY industry; and no single book industry. In today’s world, it is a symbiotic relationship between small independent stores and big retail chains, rather than the competitive world of twenty years ago. The success of the small shop owner is directly tied to the success of the chain store. They need the chain retailers to survive, because without them there are no single category industries. Traditional single category chain retailers serve as apex stores in the retail ecosystem, supplier leverage points. Without them, entire industries would fall.
It turns out the big, bad Fox Books might just be the hero after all.
Jane Broadbent
Senior Strategist

September 19, 2017

Will Kohl’s Harness Amazon's Foot Traffic?

Kohl’s is bringing Amazon’s brand and customer service into their floor space. The apparel giant will now allow Amazon returns to be serviced through Kohl's store locations. The move is controversial, but without much analysis the first thing I considered is that “inventory" is not enough of a motivator at brick and mortar anymore. The key is driving foot traffic into the store. Give the customer a prioritized reason to come in that is either experientially valuable or need-serving. Once they are there, inventory can do more to win purchase.

Amazon is so engrained in the broader fabric of customer behaviors with a leg up through volume of inventory, ease of experience and convenience of transaction that this move by Kohl’s does not seem that crazy to me. The convenience of brick and mortar returns for online purchases is a huge factor for higher register sales at brick and mortar.

Shopping behaviors are in flux and retail relationships have to figure out new ways to break down the literal walls of retail. If this gambit is not Kohl’s solution to that, they seem well poised for selling to Amazon. Historically speaking, groceries and apparel have been two of Amazon’s low-points. In that light, Kohl’s position looks an awful lot like Whole Foods’ prior to that acquisition. This development may well be another first-down in Amazon's game plan to expand its real estate.

Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

September 15, 2017

It's a New Day for Dollar Stores

In the past “dollar stores” have been seen as the misfits of mainstream retail. Over the past few years, they’ve evolved. They are now tough competition in the retail landscape. Why? And how has this industry made its transformation?

Random to useful
What used to represent a mishmash of random party supplies, cheap toys and low priority items has turned into a more practical assortment of products.
“Companies like Dollar General and Family Dollar capitalized by tightening up their operations and increasing their assortment of groceries, household goods, and other consumables” (Dollar Disrupters: How discount stores are shaking up the grocery world, Retail Dive). They have realized that food sells.
A focus on brick and mortar
While most companies are making efforts to improve the digital experience, Dollar General has confirmed a remarkable plan to build 1,000 new stores in 2017 (Why Dollar General will keep its promise to build 1K stores this year, Retail Dive).
At last count Dollar General’s numbers were at 13,205 stores across the country, more than any other retail brand. Family Dollar and Dollar Tree together have 14,284 stores. The brick and mortar presence of these brands significantly outweighs even the biggest dogs in retail (Wal-Mart at 5,229 and Target at 1,803).
Store volume and placement are strategically used to interrupt the customer's journey to the local Walmart or convenience store.
New and old customer development
“Many affluent millennials are choosing to save money on consumable products and splurging on experiences and big ticket items” (Dollar Disrupters: How discount stores are shaking up the grocery world, Retail Dive). These customers are starting to show themselves more and more at Dollar stores recently.
But unlike affluent millennials, the core customer sometimes may not have any other choice but to shop at the Dollar store price point. Many of these customers don’t own credit cards, they pay with cash Dollar Stores' Growth Opportunities- and Challenges, eMarketer), which continues to lend itself to the strong brick and mortar presence of this industry.
So what does all of this mean? If Dollar stores continue to assert themselves as the closest and most convenient, price sensible option, then we could potentially start to see a blurred line between c-stores and Dollar stores, as well as a shift in strategy amongst other larger retailers.
The good news is that you can now fulfill immediate needs at your local Dollar store such as milk, eggs, or that appetizer you promised to bring to happy hour. But good luck finding your noisemakers, plastic champagne flutes, and paper tiaras for New Year's Eve this coming year!
 
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

August 18, 2017

Back To School Boosts Brick and Mortar Retail Brands

With the new school year beginning, back-to-school shopping is kicking into full gear and parents are looking to shop with retailers who match their mental checklist of needs.
A report from Fung Global Retail & Technology, featured in an article on Retail Dive, tells us “more than 80% of consumers plan to shop at mass retailers during back-to-school, an increase of 24% over the past year.”
Brands with fast, one-stop-shop and value-friendly qualities will be seeing the highest sales this season to no surprise. Tradition stands strong this year as brick and mortar retail dominates back to school shopping over prominent e-commerce brands such as Amazon, who have seen more wins than losses in recent times.
Morning Consult conducted a nationwide poll a couple weeks ago that show Wal-mart as a parent’s top choice for back-to-school shopping. “When asked whether they would patronize a particular retailer, 63 percent of parents said they would go to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for their student’s back-to-school items. Target was second, with 50 percent of the respondents saying they would shop there, and 34 percent of parents said the same about Amazon.com Inc.”
The rhythm of back-to-school shopping seems to be determined by customers who want to do it quickly, do it well, and get it over with. Popular budget concerns skew destination decisions towards mass merchant and discount stores, as well as the assumption that the majority of buyer purchases will be influenced heavily by their children.
This year’s unnecessary stresses are being avoided by parents who can bring their child to one store and get everything they need for a reasonable price, and we don’t blame them!
This annual tradition refreshes us on the differentiated values brands have to offer across the landscape. Various matters call for different types of consumer behaviors, and brands who can stay relevant, aware and up-to-date will be favored in fitting situations.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

June 27, 2017

Generating Returns at Retail

On-the-move shoppers have discovered a cross-channel method to ensure success of their purchase process. An emerging trend among younger, more affluent women is to order a few pieces of clothing that have won consideration with deliberate plans to return or exchange part of the order after finalizing some decisions.
In an article by Retail Dive, a study done by Narvar shows 48% of shoppers have returned an online purchase in the last year, and the vast majority (82%) of those who returned an item were repeat customers. This means the return of an item is not usually a rejection of a product, or a demand for a refund, but rather a second opportunity for the brand to support a happy customer or generate additional sales.
Returns are no longer an afterthought; they are becoming part of an earlier decision-making process. Bedroom mirrors are now being used as dressing rooms, and as shoppers take full advantage of the convenience of ecommerce, retailers need to ensure ease of experience. The ability to track a return order and receive status updates delivers value to these customers and will likely earn repeat customers.
It is especially vital to give new customers a good first experience. Narvar's report claims, “Retailers need to over-deliver with new customers who return their first purchase to keep their business.”
As customers continue to search for more convenient methods of shopping, retailers need to be aware of their evolving behaviors and adjust their strategies accordingly.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

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BARBER MARTIN AGENCY
1.804.320.3232
hello@barbermartin.com

BARBER MARTIN AGENCY
1.804.320.3232
hello@barbermartin.com

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1408a Roseneath Road
Richmond, Virginia 23230

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