Tenser to Lead “In-Store Marketing ROI” Workshops In Jakarta and Singapore

THANKS TO MY new friends at Strategic Vision Group, Singapore, I’m proud to report a commitment by by my firm VSN Strategies to present two professional workshops in August on the topic of “In-Store Marketing ROI”.

Intended for experienced retailing and brand marketing practitioners, the workshops will include subject matter covering practical performance and success metrics for: Shopper Marketing; In-Store Promotion; Merchandising Performance; Frequent Shopper Programs; Shopper Media; and In-Store Implementation. Attendance is open to professionals from throughout the region and the sessions will be conducted in English.

This workshop delivers practical tools for isolating the effects of in-store marketing programs and measuring their impact on brand, category and store performance.The curriculum will include case study presentations, in-class collaborative exercises and group discussion, in a highly interactive format.

Presented for the first time anywhere, the workshops will guide participants through the development of Storecards™ for merchandising performance – an application of the “balanced scorecard” technique to in-store implementation and compliance activities.

Seats are limited due to the interactive format, so interested candidates are encouraged to contact the organizers soon to obtain the workshop brochure and reserve a place. I look forward to meeting you there!

© Copyright 2010 James Tenser

The New Voxology

IS “SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS” an oxymoron?

One current LinkedIn Groups discussion loudly and repetitively (2,500 posts and counting!) declares it “CRAP.” I think this oversimplifies what has become a marketing imperative, and clouds a very important opportunity.

As new marketing verbs like tweet, blog, and social networking permeate our thinking, we need to acquire a clarifying thought vocabulary that will allow us to grapple with emerging concepts and put the tools to appropriate and beneficial use. I’ll take a first whack at it here. Perhaps some wise readers can build on these ideas.

For starters, it would be helpful to differentiate between the kinds of activities that take place within online social media constructs. I group them into four familiar quadrants: C to C, B to C, C to B, and B to B.

“Consumer to Consumer” social media are probably the highest profile, as they are manifest on hundreds of millions of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube uploads. The purpose here is primarily social and personal, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. If much of the content posted on virtual “walls” is silly, trivial and self-indulgent, so be it. It is also highly dynamic, interactive, and in its way, democratic. The sheer size of the community is proof of the concept’s power and cultural influence.

Businesses and political groups view the huge C to C audiences as a potential gold mine, and so there has emerged a concerted effort by marketers to deliver controlled messages within the social media platforms. I’d label activities like this “Business to Consumer.” Recent elections showcased this potential, as candidates used online groups, and “fan” pages to garner support, raise funds, and motivate voters. Brand marketers are also in hot pursuit of the social media audience, but they should be cautioned that quaint broadcasting norms may not apply here. Leading practitioners are working out ways to accumulate followers who are receptive to targeted messages and offers and whose responses may also be sources of useful insights.

Which leads us naturally to consider the arrow’s reversal: “Consumer to Business” social networking may be a source of valuable feedback from both supporters and critics. Ardent fan and cruel pan pages can spring up spontaneously – sometimes to the dismay of the brand, retailer or celebrity covered. The object of such public scrutiny typically has little control over its content, much less its veracity. This is a cold fact of life that marketers must simply learn to live with. Wise brands monitor these for insights and to counter libelous talk, but they respond with a light touch, so as not to elevate a lone crackpot into fodder for the salivating media.

Of course, brands, celebrities and pols also take deliberate action to invite communications from loyal and not-so-loyal constituents – setting up their blogs, Twitter feeds, email lists and fan pages to anchor the message and gather feedback. Perhaps B to C and C to B social media activities are inseparable, two sides of a coin.

B2BSM – A Different Animal?

Finally we have the distinct instance of Business to Business social media. This is my real interest in this discussion, actually, because it applies the tools and methods of social media to serious business purposes. LinkedIn is a very good example of a public platform that is used for career networking, personal branding, formation of subject matter communities (“groups”) and sharing current events and ideas. There is also some fairly sound (if experimental) use of Twitter by trade journalists and industry observers (search the #NRF10 hashtag on twitter.com to view interesting and extensive coverage of last week’s NRF Expo in New York, for example).

Another B2BSM realm is emerging around secure-access portals that incorporate social media-like tools. These are used for creating flexible online workgroups, sharing documents and information, even hosting internal and inter-organizational collaboration like Merchandising Performance Management among retailers and manufacturers. The platforms use some familiar functionality, but quickly go deeper to deliver performance dashboards, “fingertip analytics” and other advanced capabilities designed for decision-making experts who are not IT experts.

Some businesses are also using a combination of Web-based and social media applications and tools to manage their visibility, presence, and image with respect to their business community. The portfolio of tools may include any or all of the following: The firm Web site; blog; an email and list management service; a LinkedIn group; a Facebook company page; one or more Twitter or other microblog feeds; an online market research site like Survey Monkey; an online press release distribution tool like PRWeb, and more.

At VSN Strategies, we like to call coordinating this set of activities “management of the commercial online voice” or voxology for short.

Voxology in Practice

VSN WebVox™ is my firm’s name for this business service. We help clients combine multiple Web-based tools and services to create, maintain and propagate a commercial “online voice.”

We craft thematic consistency and interlink the elements to create a high level of Web activity that helps companies score high on search engines and expand their reputation. The result is an evolving Web presence – a combination of visibility and credibility, across the multiple linked channels of the Internet. Companies become more search-able, more find-able, more believed, more in contact, more heard.

At VSN we’re in the camp that firmly believes social media for business is definitely not “CRAP.” Furthermore we maintain that mastery of its subtleties is an essential pursuit for both B to C and B to B marketers. We’d like to see some improved vocabulary emerge to differentiate the activities that take place between individual consumers, businesses and consumers, and businesses with other businesses.

For B to B, I propose “voxology,” the new science of the online voice.

© Copyright 2010 James Tenser

Six Dimensions of Shopping Time

When retailers seek to optimize the shopping experience and understand channel choice, much consideration is given to aspects of convenience. The literature generally breaks this down into two core elements: effort and time. For brick and mortar stores, the goal is to make shopping as easy as possible, and attractively quick, but not so fast that sales opportunities are missed during the shopping trip. In a multichannel environment, the puzzle gets more intricate.
Shopping time covers multiple factors, including hours of operation, travel time, search time, time to check out, delivery time, and time to return. So time-saving convenience is highly conditional:

  • A mother will drive across town to a 24-hour drug store at midnight when she has a sick child, but she may leave a convenience store when faced with a long checkout line during the morning coffee rush.
  • An electronics shopper may spend hours researching flat screen TV prices online but grow impatient when forced to wait 10 minutes for sales help at the local electronics superstore.
  • A discount store shopper may watch TV at home four hours a day, but will attend to an in-store digital screen for exactly eight seconds before moving on to the next purchase task.
  • An online shopper will gladly wait three days for free delivery of a purchase from a multi-channel retailer, but grow agitated waiting five minutes to return the same item at a local branch store.

These examples are illustrations of what I observe to be six dimensions of shopping time. The academic literature generally identifies four of these:

1) Time to access (i.e. to reach the store or shopping site)
2) Time to search (i.e. to identify and select product to buy)
3) Time to transact (i.e. to complete the purchase transaction)
4) Time to possess (i.e. to physically obtain the purchased merchandise)

This classification may not reflect a complete picture of the influence of time on consumers’ retail channel choices however. I would add two additional time elements to the list:

5) Time of operation (i.e. days and hours that the retailer may be patronized)
6) Time of return (i.e. to return an item for refund or credit).

Considering these time factors is especially important as we reason about the choices shoppers make between options in a multichannel environment. It takes minutes to find and order a book on Amazon.com – even at midnight – versus an hour or more to stop by Borders during business hours and search the shelves, but the Borders shopper may leave with the book in hand, while the Amazon.com shopper waits days for delivery. Which is more convenient? Well, it depends…what did the shopper need most at that moment?

Leading multichannel retailers give deep thought to understanding this complex of time-saving behaviors. The best evidence that I’ve seen is the growth of “order online, pick up in store” service offerings at some consumer electronics retailers. Instant gratification is still a motivation, but shoppers like the protection from stress that comes with pre-shopping on line in the calm safety of the family den.

Shoppers’ time-related behaviors, I think, are relatively independent of current economic conditions. In general they will choose the options that suit their need states of the moment. At the same time, we may observe that some shoppers will devote more time and effort to planned shopping trips by clipping coupons, preparing lists, and advance online price comparisons, especially as retailers continue to make these activities as time-efficient and easy as possible.

But the general rule (and its inverse) still applies in retailing: Time is more valuable than money for shoppers who have more money than time.

© Copyright 2009 James Tenser

The Value Pyramid of Shopper Media

Measurement schemes are coming thick and fast from various groups claiming to have the last word on measurement of shopper media. At last count at least three groups were competing over this:

The P.R.I.S.M. (Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric) project, originally organized by the In-Store Marketing Institute (www.instoremarketer.org) in 2006, has been an important catalyst for the marketplace. Now in phase II, a 26-week market test, the stated goal is to develop an “in-store GRP” or gross rating point, aimed at a identifying a comfortable metric for the media buying establishment. With strong support from Nielsen In-Store and numerous large brand marketers and ad agencies, P.R.I.S.M. is a leadership voice in establishing a standard for store-level data.

Not to be outdone, OVAB, the Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau, (www.ovab.org) released its Audience Metrics Guidelines report in August. The report advocates an “average unit audience” principle for measuring digital media in various physical settings that incorporates both opportunities to see and variable units of viewing time appropriate to each viewing context.

POPAI, the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute, which bills itself as the “global association for marketing at retail,” (www.popai.com), released its report, Digital Signage. The Global Study. Opportunities and Risks in August in conjunction with the German association, GIM (Gesellschaft für innovative Martkforschung). The scope is broad – on the global digital out-of-home (DOOH) marketplace, and the focus is again largely on audience measurement.

In addition, Digital Signage Today (www.digitalsignagetoday.com) released a sponsored report, Measurement and analysis for digital signage, that explores audience measurement and proposes a multi-tier way of looking at in-store ad value, encompassing proof of ad delivery, proof of audience delivery and sales uplift. There’s promise in this approach, I think.

All these measurement studies attempt to bring welcome rigor to the realm of shopper media metrics. It’s widely understood now that simply counting the number of people who walk in the front door of a store does not adequately document an audience. Nor does it come close to reflecting its value to advertisers using an in-store network. P.R.I.S.M. has introduced a useful scheme for dividing a retail store into messaging “zones” or channels corresponding to merchandise departments and high-traffic power alleys. This is a welcome refinement versus a people-counter at the front door, but I think it’s only a step toward the ultimate requirement, a sales and ROI sensitive measurement system.

Audience metrics are necessary, but not sufficient. The Shopper Media ROI Pyramid, pictured here, presents a conceptual framework for a more robust value metric:

O2C: At the base are “opportunities to see” – communications that have reach and frequency only. This is what the PRISM initiative has learned how to measure in Cost Per Thousand Impressions. This is a metric best expressed in some analog to gross rating points (GRP). It reflects how many messages are sent and the theoretical size of their audience. O2Cs are cheap and plentiful – and, like “traditional” media, linked tenuously to actual sales lift.

View: Next up are views that can be actually proved. Some current shopper media are capable of metering actual views through use of electric-eye people counters, embedded cameras, shopping carts with embedded RFID tags, digital image analyses, etc. This is a “page view” metric, to use a Web metaphor – greater in number than O2C but still relatively low in individual value.

Do: Next up the scale are communications that stimulate some kind of interaction that might precede a sale. This may include pressing a touch screen for further information, taking a coupon or “take-one”, trying a sample. This is a “click-through” metric, fewer in number but of greater value to marketers.

Buy: Next up the pyramid are communications that may be directly related to product trial or sale. This “purchase” metric will be more scarce, but even more valuable.

Loyal Behavior: At the pinnacle are in-store communications that contribute not just to a single purchase but to enduring affective and behavioral change. We call this loyalty, and it is rarest and dearest of all. Loyalty may only be detected by a marketer with a plan – a frequent shopper card program or other longitudinal tracking mechanism capable of linking together multiple purchase events by the same shopper.

As a marketer, I would require that all these layers be measured and modeled so that I can truly understand the ROI of my in-store communications. As a retailer hosting these messages, I would require that I get paid in accordance to the value delivered at each of these levels. As an in-store network operator, I would seek a way to justify compensation at each level as well. As a brand marketer, I would pay almost any price for provable sales ROI metrics and probably donate a vital organ for reliable proof of loyal purchase behavior.

My opinion? Opportunities to see are a poor proxy for measuring sales lift and repeat purchase behavior. I’m unimpressed by in-store GRPs and believe shopper marketers will require direct ROI measures. If this prospect makes the media buying establishment feel a bit queasy, I say get over it. It’s a digital world. Sampling and averages reflect outdated, analog thinking.

© Copyright 2008 James Tenser
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