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    Published on: September 5, 2013

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

    A few examples have popped up this week, illustrating to a great degree how consumer behavior is changing, and how some retailers are adapting.

    For example...

    Mobile Commerce Daily reports that Target is adding location-based features to its mobile application. The goal is to link local Target ads, sales, products and services to a person's smartphone when they are in the vicinity of a Target store ... but also allows them to either use the app while in-store or to do their shopping online. The goal is a relevant, synchronized and enhanced shopping experience.

    According to the story, Target’s Beta Shopping List feature is being tested in Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle and City Target stores with the goal of expanding to other cities in the future.

    Now, I have to be honest. Unlike some folks, I'm not particularly wild about the City Target stores I've visited. For example, the one in Portland, Oregon, strikes me as vanilla and cookie-cutter, and not particularly reflective of the city where it is located. But maybe by using technology in a particularly interesting way, Target will make these kinds of services its differential advantage. We'll see.

    In addition, Luxury Daily reports that Nordstrom "is contemplating putting iPads in dressing rooms to elevate its customer experience and allow it to be more accessible to digital-savvy customers. The iPads would allow customers to easily look up information to see if products are available in another size, color, department or store. Although other retailers make use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in store, it seems that this initiative would put Nordstrom ahead of the pack."

    The story goes on to say that "the iPads would aid consumers in a number of ways such as seeing if an item is available in a different size, color or a nearby store. The iPads will also sync with customer’s selections from home to have products waiting at the dressing room upon arrival and match up new items with other products that the customer has previously purchased."

    That's pretty cool. The strategy could change if the company finds that more people would prefer to use their own mobile devices - whether a smart phone or tablet computer - but again, the idea is to create a relevant, synchronized and enhanced shopping experience.

    Along the same lines, Salon.com reports that Hawaiian Airlines plans to "replace its in–flight entertainment system with a fleet of iPad Minis ... The airline will offer the devices for $15 to passengers who pre–order - the same price as the outgoing in–flight entertainment charge, and $17 to those who don’t. Business Class users will, of course, get the service for free."

    I'm not entirely sure how many people will use this service ... since when I walk up and down the aisles of airplanes, it is my sense that almost everybody already has their own laptop computer, tablet computer, iPod or iPhone. The sense of how the public consumes content is right, but I kind of feel sorry for the folks who don't get on the plane either with their own equipment or not having ordered in advance ... because they're going to be stuck.

    I just want to be able to listen to my music or read on my iPad while landing or taking off. That'll be what I call relevant and enhanced...

    That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: September 5, 2013

    by Kevin Coupe

    Yesterday, Kate's Take looked at how Bed, Bath & Beyond is bringing its products and services to college campuses.

    Today, we have a story from the local NBC News affiliate in Richmond, Virginia, which reports that Kroger is creating a kind of pop-up-store-in-a-tent at the Richmond International Raceway, offering everything from burgers and hot dogs to buns and bug spray, plus charcoal grills and propane tanks ... everything that people might need while tailgating but may have forgotten or run out of.

    It won't just be for impulse purchases. in fact, Kroger reportedly is allowing customers to place orders in advance, and then pick up their orders at the raceway.

    According to the story, "Race weekend kicks off Friday. The grandstands open at nine in the morning. NASCAR kicks off at 7:30 p.m."

    And they're off...
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 5, 2013

    The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal reports that Target "hopes to begin offering store-pickup services for goods bought on its website by the holiday shopping season."

    In addition, the story says, Target also plans to test same-day delivery of products offered on its website - though this test will be limited to company employees in 2013. If it works, the company would then roll out the service to the general public in 2014.
    KC's View:
    The story quite rightly notes that there are concerns within the company that store pickup models have the potential to affect the impulse purchases that people can make while actually walking up and down the aisles and waiting at checkout. But my default response to this is three-fold.

    First, it doesn't matter if customers want the pickup model. (And everything I've seen suggests that pickup models generally are more profitable and more quickly profitable than delivery models.)

    Second - and this is just my own experience - I think I've probably made a lot more impulse purchases online than I ever have while in bricks-and-mortar stores. So the concerns may be unnecessary.

    Third, the competition is doing it. So if you don't get into the game, you'd better have a really good alternative.

    Published on: September 5, 2013

    There is an interesting piece on Slate.com that presents the consumer case for why they ought not use loyalty cards, and how they can even be a crutch for poor business strategies and even get consumers to make poor choices.

    The position here on MNB long has been that most loyalty programs aren't actually loyalty programs - just enhanced discount programs that have very little to do with loyalty.

    I think this analysis is worth reading, and you can do so here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 5, 2013

    The Triangle Business Journal reports on the acquisition by Staples of Lonesource, a North Carolina-based retailer that provides office supplies, services such as direct mail and VOIP support, and what is seen as a strong reputation for customer service.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    The story suggests that Staples has begun to feel the impact of Amazon.com for acutely in recent quarters, and that Lonesource will offer Staples not just added business, but customer relationship expertise that could help it bolster a weakening bottom line.
    KC's View:
    Staples appears to believe that perhaps Lonesource offers differential advantages that it does not ... and if there is one lesson that all retailers need to learn, it is that they need to develop, expand and exploit their differential advantages wherever and whenever they can.

    As in the cases of all such acquisitions, of course, the challenge will be in finding ways to absorb Lonesource's positives, as opposed to imposing on it Staples' weaknesses.

    Published on: September 5, 2013

    • The Huffington Post reports that members of the Alaskan fishing industry are protesting Walmart's decision to "only buy seafood that was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, a London-based organization; fish in a fishery improvement program; or any equivalent certification program, of which there currently are none."

    The problem? "A number of large Alaska processors have dropped the MSC program because of costs and burdensome paperwork, Greg Gabriel, executive director of the Northwest and Alaska Seiners Association of Kenai, Alaska," tells HuffPo.

    And, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell says that "Alaska has been in the business of sustainability long before the MSC's existence, managing salmon fisheries to high standards since statehood."
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 5, 2013

    • The Associated Press reports that Safeway has agreed to a $600,000 settlement with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Justice in a case that charged with the retailer with violating "the nation's clear air laws by not promptly fixing leaks of HCFC-22, a potent heat-trapping gas that contributes to climate change, from its refrigerators." Safeway also has agreed "to a nationwide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration equipment at its 659 U.S. stores."


    • Yesterday, MNB took note of a Wall Street Journal story saying that "Procter & Gamble is planning a low-priced Tide that may be called Tide Simple." Well, the story has advanced a bit ... the Associated Press reports this morning that the new, lower-priced version of Tide will in fact be called "Tide Simply Clean & Fresh." CEO AG Lafley says that he hopes the new version "will succeed similar to the model of Bounty Basic and Charmin Basic, both introduced in 2005."

    At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning that P&G also is developing "luxury" versions of traditional products - Bounty Dura Towels, Cascade Platinum dishwasher soap, and a Radiant Collection from Tampax and Always - that will sell for a higher price than traditional items while promising better results.


    • The Los Angeles Times reports that Campbell Soup Co. has come up with a new product - a soup pod that can be heated up on Keurig single-cup coffee brewers. According to the story, the K-cups "will have a broth inside that can be brewed over a packet of dry pasta and a vegetable blend garnish."

    According to the story, "The companies said in a joint statement that they expect to launch three varieties of the new soup, including a chicken broth and noodle soup. The K-cup pods will begin selling next year."


    • Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) announced that it has acquired Aztec, described as "a leading provider of market measurement and related services for consumer packaged goods (CPG), liquor and pharmaceutical manufacturers and retailers in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom. "

    “This agreement directly supports our overarching “Growth Delivered” business strategy and underscores IRI’s ongoing commitment to expanding its geographic footprint and capabilities to meet our multi-country clients’ evolving research needs,” said Andrew Appel, president and chief executive officer, IRI.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 5, 2013

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced the hiring of Susan Krys as its new vice president of industry events, responsible for helping "FMI realize a stated objective of re-engineering the annual industry trade show, FMI Connect, to make it into an industry-wide focal event. Prior to joining FMI, Krys was senior director of expo, promotions and industry events at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) where she orchestrated industry participation for a meeting of 13,000 professional cardiovascular professionals and industry leaders.
    KC's View:

    Published on: September 5, 2013

    Had to share the following email, received from MNB reader Bryan Silbermann:

    I have to share an experience I just had … it relates to making sure that one’s brand image is matched at every step of the interaction with consumers because the image breaks down at the weakest link in the chain
     
    The company:  Lexus.
     
    The back story:  I’ve been a passionate supporter for 18 years my (wife and I both drive them).
     
    The event: I recently had my car’s 30,000 mile service – exceptionally well done as always.
     
    The call: from a company Lexus uses to follow-up on the customer experience.
     
    The reason:  They do this all the time – to see if you have any issues, whether you’d give them a 5 out of 5 for the service experience, and to ask you to respond to the survey every owner gets in the mail.
     
    The hiccup: The young man who called was clearly reading a script, had poor verbal language skills, and simply didn’t match the brand image I expect from Lexus.  I expect precision, accuracy, and flawless execution.  The caller exhibited none of these – though he was very pleasant. 
     
    You may call me a language snob, but this was clearly a case in which the company’s execution of its brand promise didn’t match my expectation of the relationship they’ve created with me.  They did everything perfectly to service my car, but their research execution gave me heartburn.  Lesson learned for our business – every point of customer interaction counts.


    Agreed.

    And there is nothing wrong with being a language snob.
    KC's View: