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    Published on: March 7, 2012

    by Michael Sansolo

    In the past year, Gamestop, Gap, JC Penney and Nordstrom have all opened and then closed storefronts on Facebook. No doubt that there are many out there who see this as a sure sign that social networking sites, while great for sharing photos and updates of kids and pets, are not the spot for business.

    I’d argue completely against that point of view. Let’s start with a great quote from the television show “The West Wing”:

    “There has been a time in the evolution of everything that works when it didn't work.”

    The only reason storefronts have yet to work on Facebook is that no one has quite done it right. But eventually, someone will get it right. In a big way. Really soon. And then, will take it even further.

    It’s time we take a really long view at social networking to understand the incredible range of ways that Facebook, Twitter and others can dramatically impact the way business is done on line and in stores. In fact, it’s already happening.

    Social networking is already a shopping partner for an increasing percentage of customers. Linked to their world of friends and advisors, customers are increasingly reliant on these networks for research prior to the shopping trip, for advise and discussion in the aisles of the store and certainly after the trip ends, when they happily post critiques and reviews on countless sites. The challenge for business is to understand how to best interact with this new thread of discussion so that your presence leads to sales and satisfaction.

    Major insights into the intersection of commerce and the social web are all part of the third installment in the new study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, which you can download here.

    All three sections can be downloaded for free here.

    (Again, full disclosure: I serve as research director for the Council and am heavily involved in this new study.)

    While the first two sections of the study focused on the fundamentals of social media - the scope of its use and the reasons why people seem compelled to make these connections - the third installment (and the two that will follow) get into business issues. The section being released today provides a few key areas for business discussion:

    • The different personalities or roles that social networking users adopt. Understanding these helps businesses identify the most influential shoppers who are most willing to post opinions and advice about their shopping experiences.

    • The incredible importance of food in the realm of social networking discussions. Any doubters in the industry about the importance of social media need only review the statistics compiled by the Integer Group, the study’s authors, to get a sense of just how prominent food is on the social web.

    • The evolving nature of the shopping trip and how, thanks to smart phones, networking is increasingly part of purchasing decisions. This section also helps outline the growing ease of planning and commenting on trips to influence others.

    • A quick list of do’s and don’ts for businesses trying to make an impact through social media.

    And that’s only scratching the surface. The real value in this entire section of the report comes in starting the discussion inside your company on how best to get on top of the wave that is changing the way the world communicates. Remember, before everything works, it doesn’t, but those who figure it out first get an enormous competitive advantage.

    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    by Kevin Coupe

    Here’s kind of a cool idea that seems to merge concepts from the worlds of social media and daily deals...

    AFP reports that American Express is working with Twitter “to allow users to synchronize their credit cards with the micro-blogging site and take advantage of store discounts with a simple tweet ... clients would be able to get exclusive discounts loaded onto their cards by mentioning offers by #hashtag on the popular micro-blogging site.

    “When the cardholder makes the purchase in question, whether in a shop or on a participating merchant's website, the credit is posted within a few days.”

    Among the retailers testing the concept are Whole Foods, Best Buy, Zappos and and McDonald’s.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    Advertising Age reports on a poll suggesting that three out of five “digital decision makers” - on both the agency and brand sides - say they intend to spend more on advertising in various social media over the coming year.

    According to the story, “In an Advertiser Perceptions semiannual survey of nearly 1,200 people involved in deciding how ad dollars are spent digitally, 59% of respondents said they would increase social-media-ad spending in the next 12 months, compared with just 4% who said they would decrease spending on social platforms. The survey also found that, on average, social-media advertising will make up about 27% of digital budgets over the next 12 months, compared with 22% in the previous 12 months.”
    KC's View:
    These investments will have to provide some sort of ROI if they are to continue to grow, but certainly the momentum seems to be building in this direction. (Just look at the first three stories on MNB today ... this seems to be where are a lot of the innovation and experimentation is, because this is where many of the customers are. No brainer.)

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart has asked a federal judge in Dallas “to reject a proposed class-action lawsuit in which women allege that the world’s largest retailer discriminated against Texas female workers over pay and promotions.

    “The company said the claims are barred by the statute of limitations ... The case also can’t be pursued as a class-action matter because there is little in common among the claims made by the plaintiffs, it said.”

    The proposed class action would, according to the story, create a group of 45,000 plaintiffs. It is the direct result of a US Supreme Court decision last year that a national class action could not be certified because the cases did not have enough in common, a decision the plaintiffs’ lawyers have responded to by filing suits on a state-by-state basis.
    KC's View:
    I don’t mean to sound naive, but what bothers me about this story is the fact that Walmart is looking to get the case tossed because of technicalities - not because there wasn’t systemic - which is not to say coordinated and approved - problems with the way a lot of women were treated there for a long time. I think a lot of this has changed - there seem to be a lot more women working at the top of the Walmart ladder these days. But through legal maneuvering, the real issue isn’t being dealt with.

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    The Dallas Morning News reports that Kroger “will introduce electric vehicle charging stations at select stores in the North Texas market this year.

    “The charges will be free during the introductory year. In 2013, a pay system comparable to having a toll tag will be implemented, Kroger said.”
    KC's View:
    It is interesting that even though there are forecasts that there could be as many as 100,000 electric car sales in the U.S. this year, Chevrolet has decided to shut down production of its Volt electric car for five weeks because of slow sales and extra inventory. I don’t think there is much question that we’re going to slowly move to cars that use alternative energy, and I applaud the companies that are making electric charging stations available, but the whole thing is taking longer that one would hope.

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    Marketing Daily has an interview with Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, about how Gen Y’s spending habits are changing in the post-recession environment, noting that “it makes sense that they would be more cash-strapped than older generations, of course, with many in the 18-to-34 age group saying they don’t have enough scratch to cover the basics; 24% are in financial turmoil.”

    Liebmann addressed the results of a new WSL: study on the subject, noting that “in this survey, which included upwards of 1,900 adults, they were basically recognizing that the aspirations they’ve had, the way they thought about the economic promise in life, have really been changed ... It may seem like an extreme comparison, but in the same way the Great Depression shaped people’s views about money, this generation has really undergone a big change.”

    She goes on to point out that the survey revealed that “75% of women now say it’s important to get the lowest price on everything they buy, up 12 percentage points from 2008, and 22 percentage points from 2004.”

    One other fascinating result from the study: “That so many people earning $150,000 think of themselves as struggling. About 30% of Americans in the $100-150,000 household income bracket claim they can only afford the basics. They don’t feel affluent; they now see themselves as middle-income.  Given that the median income is something like $46,000, that’s saying something. Brands and retailers can’t ignore this.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    • The Contra Costa Times reports that “Walmart is planning four Neighborhood Market grocery stores in the Bay Area at sites in the South Bay and East Bay,” as part of its overall plan to open 13 of the units in California.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    ...with random, italicized and occasionally gratuitous commentary...

    • In North Carolina, the News Observer reports that beginning today, “Food Lion will offer a double-coupon promotion in Triangle and Fayetteville-area stores - just weeks after the supermarket chain's parent company announced it would close more than 100 stores. It will be the first time the Salisbury-based grocery chain will offer double coupons in the highly competitive Triangle grocery market, though it has tested the promotion in other areas, said Food Lion spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown.”

    Food Lion clearly feels it has to do these things to reinforce and/or re-establish the strong price image it always has had, but I always get nervous about double coupons. It’s a dangerous road to travel, because you run the danger of getting shoppers hooked on them ... and at the same time, the simple reality is that anyone can undercut anyone else on price.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    • Ahold USA announced that Kathy Russello, the company’s senior vice president of human resource delivery, has been promoted to executive vice president of human resources, effective today.

    She succeeds Bhavdeep Singh, who was promoted last year to be Ahold USA’s executive vice president of operations.
    KC's View:

    Published on: March 7, 2012

    No emails today, folks. I’m afraid that I’ve been hit by a bad case of the flu - everything aches, including my eyeballs and my typing fingers, and I haven’t had any solid food in more than 24 hours. And making things worse is the fact that I’m going on the road this morning for business...the show must go on!

    I actually thought that today might be the first day in more than 10 years on which I’d “call in sick” and not produce MNB. That didn’t happen ... though I hope you’ll be patient with what is a somewhat truncated version this morning.
    KC's View: