March 2, 2018

Lacoste’s  Alligator Steps Aside for Conservation

Lacoste, formerly IZOD- a brand that peaked in the 80s and 90s but has faded out of mainstream fashion is hoping to draw some attention  through a new campaign partnering with Union for Conservation of Nature. An article by Fast Company tells us the campaign will feature limited edition polos that replace the iconic alligator logo with depictions of 10 threatened animals in efforts to help protect the remaining wildlife. The shirts can be seen in detail on the Lacoste France website. We also like the simplicity of this shot from Creative Review's instagram feed.
Lacoste is only creating the quantity of polos that corresponds to the number of each species recorded in the wild. “Since there are only 350 Sumatran tigers, there will be only 350 tiger logo polos for sale. The gulf of California porpoise only gets 30 shirts, due to its dwindling numbers.”
Take a look here.
Cause marketing continues to gain steam as brands develop their social and political voices. But the incentives can’t be ignored. Is the true alignment to the cause as strong as the benefit for the brand? Is the brand exposing issues that would have been unnoticed by the general public?
These questions have to be taken seriously to work authentically. For now we can be appreciative of brands taking steps to tackle the issues that define their position in an ever complicated world.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights
Jeff Smack
Director of Interactive Media

November 21, 2017

Lottery Scratchers Aren’t for Playing, but for Giving

Like every other retail brand that ever was or will be, the holidays are traditionally a peak sales time for the Virginia Lottery. Of course, Lottery loyalists will be buying holiday-themed Scratchers and raffle tickets with a $1 million payout, but the gift-giving nature of the season presents an opportunity to gain interest from new players who want to get in on the fun.
This year’s holiday campaign for the Virginia Lottery aims to drive both loyal and new player segments to try Lottery Holiday games. So, with our knowledge of traditional player habits and holiday shopping behaviors, we zeroed in on appealing to gift givers. And we did so by positioning Scratchers as the ultimate holiday gift, not to receive or play, but to give.
Our “Win the Holidays” campaign for the Virginia Lottery is all about the feeling you get when you give someone Scratchers. The campaign title itself refers to the idea that you “win the holidays” by giving Scratchers, not by playing them.
This focus on giving allowed us to deviate from the usual comedic tone of the television spots we produce (and totally enjoy producing) for the Lottery, and inspired us to create a narrative that’s more emotionally charged.
The campaign’s two television spots and one digital video feature people of different backgrounds in different scenarios “giving the gift of joy” by giving holiday Scratchers. Scratchers are shown tied to dog bones and mistletoe, left on doormats and office desks, and passed out to family members, parking attendants, hairstylists, etc. Every scenario captures a moment of joy from the giver and receiver.
The spot also features a cameo appearance by actor Jason Kypros of Norfolk, also known as the Virginia Lottery’s Game Guy.

We know a lottery Scratcher isn’t an Apple watch or tickets to Hamilton, but that’s part of their charm. “Win the Holidays” celebrates the idea that a Scratcher can make people feel good by simply acting as a symbol of appreciation.
This campaign does a lot of hard work for the Lottery brand, almost acting as a holiday brand anthem. It positions the Virginia Lottery in a feel-good, emotional light that we think will cut through the holiday clutter and, of course, sell Lottery Scratchers.
Profits from holiday sales, like all Lottery games, benefit K-12 public education in Virginia – another thing we can all feel good about.
See our complete Giving the Gift of Joy holiday campaign for the Virginia Lottery, here.

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. soundly dominates the website category with 62% of shoppers expecting to use it. 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.
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

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 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

June 20, 2017

Improving Chat Technology in Retail

Internet users have been communicating through chat technology for a long time. According to a quick look at Wikipedia, it was born in the 70s. But most of us 18 and older will point to AOL Instant Messenger as our first introduction. Today, we use mobile text, Facebook Messenger and hundreds of other chatty applications. It's largely a social thing.
Companies today are repurposing chat as a customer service tool. Poshmark, for example, has opened an online dressing room where sellers can give their customers fashion advice. They are way ahead of the game.
We've also discussed Nordstrom's adoption of mobile text as a shopper concierge in previous posts. While we see some bright examples on the front edge of this trend, chat in retail is still an up-and-coming tool that has yet to meet customer expectations in a comprehensive way.
An eMarketer article called, “Live Chat Not So Live, Study Finds” says that only 39% of companies have implemented chat and “currently 29% of US consumers prefer to interact with digital retailers via online chat.” Unsurprisingly, Millennials are most likely, but this shows that it is still not a preferred option.
A primary research study featured on eMarketer done by SuperOffice shows the average wait time for customer chat requests was 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Considering attention spans and the current speed of services available, that's too long of a wait for customers to form positive perceptions about chat. And around 20% of the companies in the study never answered the chat request. This only teaches users to avoid the channel altogether in the future.
Chat is a familiar experience to most users, so it won't take long for people to get accustomed to it as an easier and faster option in retail. But the operational reality needs to be improved if users are going to adopt it.
While human customer service via chat is stepping up it's game, we're also seeing early attempts at chat-bot technology. Chat-bots are basically a conversational search engine that responds like a subject matter expert on the other end of the line. But this also has a long way to go. The potential is unrealized. You may remember this unfortunate example.
Whether the chat experience is with a live person, a convincing AI or a good algorithm, younger generations will shape the future. Currently, they seem to prefer less direct human interaction via phone or salespeople. So once brands meet the stakes, we believe that chat can become a viable and even favored customer service feature in the near future.
Emily Mondloch
Market Research & Insights

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