retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to Kate McMahon’s column yesterday, one MNB user wrote:

Kate is right to suggest that the jury is still out on QR codes. As you note, part of the challenge is that they appear to be much more interesting to marketers than shoppers.

But there are tech-based alternatives to QR codes that are already in place and driving incremental revenue. And as it happens, one such alternative doesn’t even require the use of a smartphone.

I’ve been watching for some time now the use of cell phone cameras to snap pics of cool or interesting merchandise and then forwarding said pic on to a friend or family member, perhaps for “approval” or later purchase. Maybe you’re not sure if those shoes will match the skirt in your closet, so you snap a pic for later comparison. The thing to note here is this is a consumer driven behavior and not something that originates on a marketer’s white board.

Last December I was doing this very same thing. While shopping at my local grocery store—a well-regarded national retailer—I stumbled across a really wonderful (and expensive) holiday wreath. I decided to snap a pic with my phone to see if my wife would justify this pricey, impulse purchase. While I was focusing my cell phone’s camera, I was interrupted by a team member who, while polite enough, loudly informed me that there was a policy prohibiting the use of cameras in their store. When I explained what I was trying to do he replied, “Look, we understand that everyone has their reasons for why they want to take pictures in our store, but we simply cannot allow photography in here. It’s our policy.”

So they lost out on $65 in incremental revenue.

Meanwhile that same retailer had several dozen QR codes peppered throughout the store. So we are allowed to use our cellphone cameras to scan the marketer’s QR code for some kind of extra information, but we cannot use our cameras to solve our own shopping problems. To get the information we really need—our spouse’s approval. How very, very ironic.

Of course the obvious answer is to roll back the archaic rules preventing in-store photography—though I doubt some stores ever will. But the more important insight is that it may be much more lucrative to learn how your customers are currently using technology in their native fashion before building marketing schemes that sometimes run in other directions. Put another way, why not encourage your customers to use their lens the way they want to and not the way we want them to?

Following up on yesterday’s story about cuts being made at the USDA, MNB user Blake Steen wrote:

As you now know I’m a huge fiscal conservative but these are not places we need to be closing.  Some government regulation is not a bad thing and our food supply is surely one of those good versions of government regulation.  I could give you 150 ways to save $150,000,000.00 - this is just not one of them.  This is a great example of the media not doing their job and just listening to Government mindlessly.  Do you really think that closing 259 offices is not going to affect the way they regulate?  Where is the journalistic nature we see in your blog every day?

Not to engage in knee-jerk media defensiveness, but ... it was the media that first reported this story, and suggested that there are concerns about food safety issues.

MNB user Pat Patterson wrote:

I would be the last person to turn my back on $150 million, but in a time where we are all cutting our budgets I have to question the value of this cut.  If my math skills, and my calculator, haven't failed me, that $150 million is 0.103448% of their budget.

To put that value into perspective, I am a large guy, weigh about 260 lbs.  If I lost that same 0.103448% that's just under 4 1/2 ounces.  I don't think that's enough of a  weight loss to get my doctor off my back.

One MNB user wanted to comment on an email we posted yesterday about how Amazon Prime changes shopping behavior:

I find I have done the same thing.  Before I had Prime, I would shop Amazon for books/electronics but go to dedicated web sites for other purchases.  Now, my go to is Amazon for everything. I sent my son-in-law a king size mattress for a Christmas present from Amazon.  Due to having Prime, my shipping costs were zero, and it got there in 2 days. I too wonder how long they can hold the $79 annual fee.  But, they have changed buying habits w/it; that’s for sure.
KC's View: