The Five Yeses of Retail Tech Marketing

five yeses tensers tirades

IF YOU HAVE a great retail technology solution to offer, five yeses control your future.

You already know – more or less – who the decision-makers are at each target account: the CIO, the head of store operations, the head of merchandising, the CFO, and the CEO.

Each of these individuals has the power to say “no.” If your solution doesn’t seem to align with one of their objectives, the game may be over. You need all their heads nodding to close the sale. Is your story designed to be persuasive to all five yeses?

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Authenticity: If You Can Fake That…

Groucho-1933-Duck-Soup-300

RIGHT NOW CONTENT MARKETING is the name of the game. That’s Content with a capital C, which is presently a thriving business in the ad agency domain. The idea is to influence the trends that flow through social and mobile media by inserting Content on behalf of brands.

There are many ways to accomplish this — ranging from hiring ringers to post favorable reviews and spam blog comments, to sharing genuinely valuable consumer information like product usage tips or recipes. It is also desirable to monitor Content posted by others, then respond as needed to amplify, rebut, or influence perceptions.

The motivation is, I think, largely fear-based. The social-mobile frenzy generates tons of uncontrolled consumer sharing, both pro and con, accurate and inaccurate. No doubt there are also dirty tricks being played every day by competitors bent on undermining their rivals. Brands lose sleep over losing control of their messages and so they hire hip young firms to help them create and spread content of their own.

The trick to making Content work is to put enough of it in front of the folks the brand wants to influence, especially the ones capable of influencing others — like bloggers and social media divas. The agencies are supposed to ensure that the Content is both artful and discoverable by the target audience. Hipness and coolness are good traits too.

So the goal is to create the right Content and embed it within the right Context, in order to better drive Commerce. A key attribute to making all of this work is authenticity — the perception that the Content is believable, relevant, and true (probably in that order). The new Content Marketing agencies are all over this, of course.

Today I shared a bit of content of my own on RetailWire.com as part of a discussion, Which Came First? The Content Or The Egg? It make me think about the quip about sincerity most often attributed to Groucho Marx, who is pictured here in the classic film, “Duck Soup.” (It may actually have been first uttered by French dramatist Jean Giradoux, but Groucho is funnier.)

Here’s my take:

It seems “content” is a wheel that keeps on rolling. Remember the “content is king” slogan that was popular at the peak of the dot-com frenzy? Its relevance then was the hunger for product data and other information needed to populate the new web sites. If you build it, you have to fill it with something, right?

Content was soon displaced by “commerce” as folks got the shopping cart and delivery mechanisms worked out and consumers got used to the idea of shopping remotely. After a period of more or less centralized control, the social-mobile reality has caused user-created content to explode, but in an entirely uncontrolled manner.

It is into this chaotic environment that the new content marketers are venturing. They hope their organized campaigns will somehow float above the SoMoLoMe din, resulting in a degree of influence over brand perceptions. A whole industry of B2C content marketing agencies is emerging to service this trend.

The risk is that these messages drown in a vast content sea in which the relevant mixes with the contrived. I don’t believe brands will win in this environment simply by opening the floodgates or turning up the volume.

Only quality and authenticity can win in such content-flooded environment. To paraphrase the sage, Groucho: If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

© Copyright 2013 James Tenser

Stalking Privacy

TargetedTHE ERA OF INDIVIDUAL PRIVACY may turn out to be a mere blip in the sequence of human history, as the smothering embrace of the World Wide Web makes our every click and consumption act a new molecule in the Big Data tsunami. Marketers salivate at the potential to sift the flow and aim relevant offers with pinpoint accuracy.

If they have their way unimpeded, privacy may turn out to be the human right that never was. People with means may put up barriers to make their personal information difficult to obtain. Everybody else would stand naked in the virtual town square, shielded only by the sheer numbers of their peers.

No wonder reasonable people worry that targeting may easily transmute into stalking when marketers apply automation to their process. The mechanisms and practices are not readily visible to normal citizens. I think this makes the reality both better and worse than it really seems.

This morning I offered this perspective on RetailWire.com as part of a discussion, Are Shoppers Entitled to Privacy While They Shop? This is a topic rife with assumptions that deserve to be challenged.

Here’s my take:

There is no natural right to privacy in the public domain. But protecting privacy may be the preferred practice for marketers and even governments.

If I enter a place of business (in-store or online), I should reasonably expect that my behaviors are open for observation.

But I’m not obligated to like or accept this. I can vote with my feet, clicks and dollars by preferentially visiting or patronizing establishments that adhere to a less creepy standard.

So I would propose that marketers make a habit of disclosure that is not buried on page 18 of the terms of use. Reminders about shopper tracking should be automatic and opt-out mechanisms provided.

If consumer privacy can be bypassed in the name of marketing relevancy, then certainly the marketers themselves should have zero expectation of privacy about their methods and objectives.

Disclose. Disclose. Disclose. Let shoppers tell you what they will accept; then market to meet that expectation.

[Tenser excerpt from Are Shoppers Entitled to Privacy While They Shop? discussion on RetailWire.com, Mar. 15, 2013.]
© Copyright 2013 James Tenser
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