Attention Retailers: Facebook & Twitter Visitors Spend More Online Than Average Internet Users

comScore released some hard-hitting facts and figures on the state of the US Retail Economy in the First Quarter of 2010.

Before I delve into highlighting the takeaway, let me start with these two thoughts if you’re not sure you want to read on:

Two Myths –

A)     Social Media audience is all young people with no money

B)      Low ad clickthrough rates means low performance

Two Facts –

A)     Social networking site users spend 1.5x more online than the average internet user

B)      CPMs on social networking sites 5x less than average Internet CPM

The Low-Down on the State of Our Economy -

1)      e-Commerce continues to gain share of retail spending (and peaks in colder seasons), reaching 8.1% by end of Q1-2010

2)      e-Commerce sales in Q1-2010 were up 6% compared to a year ago (travel up 2% and non-travel up 10%)

3)      e-Commerce showed double-digit growth for the first time since Q2 2008.

4)      Strong pre-Easter sales in March this year, where buying dropped a month later in April.

5)      Website visitation grew 12% in April versus a year ago (though some large retailers experienced in single- to double-digit declines in unique visitors in April).

6)      “March surge in spending was propelled by savings, which drove the personal savings rate down to 2.7% of after-tax incomes, the lowest level since September 2008.” – Associated Press, May 3, 2010

7)      “If one subtracts the stimulus effect and the boost from changing inventories – also a temporary factor – there’s been no recovery at all. Growth in the first and second quarters of 2010 would be zero.” – WSJ Blog, May 15, 2010

8)      U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis just revised GDP down from 3.2% to 3.0% for Q1 2010.

9)      Economists say it takes about 3% growth in GDP to create enough jobs just to keep up with population growth. Growth would have to be about 5% for a full year just to drive the unemployment rate down by 1 percentage point.” – Associated Press, April 30, 2010

10)   Consumers have found themselves “trading down” to cope with decreased spending power; instead of buying their favorite brands, they cope with other less-expensive brands; the degree of impact varies by product category

11)   The use of Coupons is coming on strong, where 29 million people visited a coupon site in April 2010 (led by coupons.com, retailmenot.com and eversave.com)

12)   Consumers choose “Free Shipping” as their most important cost-saving measure, followed by sale items and no tax.

13)   The larger the retailer, the more attractive the incentives such as free shipping & discounts are.

14)   Men are much more likely to buy from pure-play retailers (i.e. single-channel retailer like Amazon.com)

15)   Flash Sale sites like IDEELI.com, GILT.com, HAUTELOOK.com and RUELALA.com continue to grow and their users spend several times more than average online.

16)   23% of Twitter users follow businesses and retailers to find special deals, promotions or sales, or use Twitter for product reviews & opinions.

17)   Some retailers like Teleflora (48%), Levi Strauss (33.5%) and SnorgTees (29.6%) are spending relatively more on Social Media display advertising.

18)   It’s official: Facebook & Twitter visitors spend more money online than average.

(Courtesy of comScore‘s State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy in Q1 2010 presented by comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni)

Starting Out the New Year in a Posterous Style: Life Streaming

No, this is not a luxurious product or expensive commodities I’m selling you. And no, no one has paid me anything to say what I’m about to tell you. But I gotta admit that I’ve been flirting with a bifurcated heart recently. And that is instead of blogging, I’ve been “lifestreaming” on posterous.com. If you’ve never heard of Posterous or lifestreaming, you should check it out. It’s bound to revolutionize the way you organize information you want to share, store and send.

Blogging through my Gmail account is one of the many features Posterous offers. (No, Posterous didn’t pay me to write this blog post in case you’re wondering.) But I realize that if I come across a really cool news story, do some further digging into it, jot down some quick thoughts and make it available to others to jump on the same topic, Posterous does exactly that for me. The multimedia posting is even a bigger draw. You could practically post any video, images, podcast and feeds at your finger tips, again, via email.

My lifestream can be found on adamarcom.posterous.com and by sending an email to my posterous account, my lifestream post will go up instantly (between 1-2 minutes). I use Adamarcom as it’s my Twitter handle and it’s easy to remember. You can also integrate your Posterous stream with your Twitter and Facebook feeds. Honestly, I can’t find a better tool than this to help organize my virtual life three-way likeso. (And yes, Posterous supports posts on WordPress as well, though for me personally, Posterous is more of a bookmarklet style of blogging, and I’d rather keep my WordPress a bit more analytical and incisive than merely bookmarking my favorite resources and industry news, so I’ve decided to keep them separate.)

My most recent stream is on the top-growing retail sites and categories in December 2009. The information is HIGHLY RELEVANT to brands as we go into 2010. The reason is that our December holiday spending is a good indicator of commodities and information we consume regardless of the economic sentiments around us. If we visit those retailers and retail categories in spite of a slowed economy, a shrunk paycheck and a slightly damped mood, I think we’re onto some valuable insights here. A little further digging will get you into the psychographics of your customers and help you craft the best marketing strategy into the new year.

Another interesting lifestream I did was on “Eye-tracking” for those interested in SEO and SEM. If your website is a key channel of information and e-commerce for your business, Eye-tracking results are always going to be key to unlock the priorities of the different properties, elements and advertising assets happening on your website. Especially if you’re about to redesign your website in 2010, eye-tracking should definitely make it to the top of your list.

For many of us, 2010 will be a HUGE year of customer relationship building – face-to-face AND via social media. Consider Posterous and many other up-and-coming social tools (which I’d continue to keep you posted on in the days to come) that can help you do your job better.

Pizza Time! Domino’s Keeps it Real

When a company is this bold, transparent and carries such swagger to reinvent its age-old secret recipe, it’s bound to turn some heads and raise some eye-brows—but all in a very good way.

Domino’s Pizza gives itself a kick in the back when it makes a “public” confession to its customers that’s like “Yeah, we gotta suck it up to our cardboard-feel pizza crust”, and wants their customers to give them a fair shake so that they can start all over again. Literally, their chefs decide to start all over from sauces and cheese to crust and toppings. Never have I seen a turnaround team so engaged and painfully open about their reactions to customers’ feedback, but they’re surely doing the right thing and making their campaign fun and compelling to watch & follow, hence a great social media project.

Domino’s Pizza’s social media campaign involves the following steps (tactical) that brings out profound learnings (strategic) for all marketers:

Step 1:

Document what customers are saying about their pizzas (the fact that they loathe Domino’s Pizza for the various obvious reasons)

Step 2:

Engage their in-house master chefs to investigate what has gone wrong

Step 3:

Create a new recipe; reinvent the way they market their pizzas using social media

Step 4:

Re-engage their existing customers and ask them to give Domino’s another chance

Classic marketing techniques but applied in a fundamentally open, transparent, graceful yet revolutionary way. Here’s to a praise-worthy brand that truly cares, listens, acts and improves! Good job customers and great job Domino’s on directing negative customer feedback into positive energy to re-focus on creating better products.

Watch the Pizza Turnaround Campaign:

Related posts:
HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Blog on How Domino's is Using Customer Feedback and Social Media Outreach
Capturing Your Customers' Full Value

Marketers need to be better storytellers than Tiger Woods

Peter Jeffrey of the Wall Street Journal did a great job on this spoof of Tiger Woods’ never-happened verbal apology to the public. The ah-ha moment for me: be honest, transparent, and a better storyteller (or find a better script-writer) than Tiger Woods.

Humor: How to Apologize Like a Tiger WSJ’s Peter Jeffrey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haNyo5deYXE

Related Post on MarketWatch: http://www.marketwatch.com/video/asset/humor-how-to-apologize-like-a-tiger-2009-12-17/A12FD673-420D-4A41-AD80-E6610CA7C9F2

2010 will be a busy year of customer relationship building…for marketers

When Bruce Temkins of Forrester Research says on his blog (http://experiencematters.wordpress.com) that 2010 will be a busy year for customer experience, he says it right. Strategy, technology, knowing and building relationship with your customers, restoring purpose in your brand, and the list goes on, are all part and parcel of the busyness marketers will experience next year.

The other day I was a participant (@AdaMarcom) on a Twitter chat #sm38 with Charlene Li (@charleneli) and other great marketers discussing social media, she said social media will be a key differentiator for businesses in 2010, where companies/brands who do well in this arena will increase customer loyalty, I was a bit skeptical.

Yes, social media tools on websites can help differentiate your products from your competition. They will make customer experience more pleasant and welcoming. But when most companies are going on Twitter and Facebook, responding to sales inquiries and handling customer service questions, then what could have been a differentiator is now part of life (the way of doing business). Companies are expected to provide satisfactory customer service, be it via a social media tool, a mix of social media tools or over the phone and email. More so in 2010 and the years to come, given more choices and increased exposure to brands in the media (online, TV, print and events), customers are becoming more knowledgeable than ever. They’re not only becoming selective and knowledgeable about the products themselves, they’re also getting pickier than ever about their shopping experience, how companies handle their orders, and what sources/sites they’re getting their products from.

“Don’t think of social media as an incremental “thing” to be handed off to a consumer. Your social media strategy is an extension of your company’s behavior,” said James Kelly on Forbes.com’s CMO Network in an article named “CMOs: Don’t Give Up Those Brand Reins!”

Customer service experience, with a smart choice of technology and social media tools, is going to be the key differentiator of marketing success and good company behavior in 2010. May I call it the “all-around” customer service experience? When I can pick up the phone, send an email, tweet my question, post on a Facebook fan page about the product I’m considering, finding help to research the product I’m purchasing, rating my experience with the product (and the process of getting the product into my hand), YouTubing the way the product works if it’s really that cool to warrant a video of its own, I think that’s ultimate all-around customer service experience.

Customers still dominate the center-stage of product marketing; they still have the reins the last time I checked. Though Time magazine just announced the “Person of the Year” to be Ben Bernanke, I think the ultimate person of the year is “I” the customer.

Let’s end with this thought on customer loyalty, and we’ll expand on this discussion in my next post: “Real value of social media/technologies is that it creates deeper relationships. How do you measure relationships?” tweeted by @charleneli on the Twitter chat #sm38. Building strong customer relationships will help unleash the true value of social media and technologies, hence giving you the best bank for the buck you spent on achieving it.

I believe with the thinking of creating deeper relationships and measuring them, we as marketers will head the right direction in 2010.

Related posts: Are you capturing your customers' full value? 
10 Customer Service Trends in 2010
Social Media Convergence

Two sides of the table: Agency vs. Client

Seth Godin hit it on the head of the nail again. He posted a blog today and turned my thinking upside down, inside out, like no one ever has, on the subject of being a great client. “Is there such a thing?” you may ask. Of course there is. Having been on both sides of the table, trying to be innovative on the agency side, and trying to keep innovation flowing as a client, I’ve never thought about my role in the light of “fostering.” But Seth said it well, and here’s my reaction to his bullet points.

I have here counter bullets of what you’re supposed to do if you’re on the other side of the table — that you’re the innovator. I think these bullets will serve as great reminders for anyone who wants to stay innovative and to become your client’s favorite innovator:

If you’re the client… If you’re the innovator…
  • Before engaging with the innovator, foster discipline among yourself and your team. Be honest about what success looks like and what your resources actually are.
  • If you can’t write down clear ground rules about which rules are firm and which can be broken on the path to a creative solution, how can you expect the innovator to figure it out?
  • Simplify the problem relentlessly, and be prepared to accept an elegant solution that satisfies the simplest problem you can describe.
  • After you write down the ground rules, revise them to eliminate constraints that are only on the list because they’ve always been on the list.
  • Hire the right person. Don’t ask a mason to paint your house. Part of your job is to find someone who is already in the sweet spot you’re looking for, or someone who is eager and able to get there.
  • Demand thrashing early in the process. Force innovations and decisions to be made near the beginning of the project, not in a crazy charrette at the end.
  • Be honest about resources. While false resource constraints may help you once or twice, the people you’re working with demand your respect, which includes telling them the truth.
  • Pay as much as you need to solve the problem, which might be more than you want to. If you pay less than that, you’ll end up wasting all your money. Why would a great innovator work cheap?
  • Cede all issues of irrelevant personal taste to the innovator. I don’t care if you hate the curves on the new logo. Just because you write the check doesn’t mean your personal aesthetic sense is relevant.
  • Run interference. While innovation sometimes never arrives, more often it’s there but someone in your office killed it.
  • Raise the bar. Over and over again, raise the bar. Impossible a week ago is not good enough. You want stuff that is impossible today, because as they say at Yoyodyne, the future begins tomorrow.
  • When you find a faux innovator, run. Don’t stick with someone who doesn’t deserve the hard work you’re doing to clear a path.
  • Celebrate the innovator. Sure, you deserve a ton of credit. But you’ll attract more innovators and do even better work next time if innovators understand how much they benefit from working with you. 
  • Ask what success means for your client. Tell your client what success means to you in relation to your client’s success.
  • Lay down ground rules and lay out a road map with which you can reach a creative solution, and explain to your client how you’re going to get there. Find out what your client’s ground rules and road map to innovation is like.
  • After writing down the ground rules, if you think some of them are getting in the way of innovation and creativity, revise them.
  • Discuss the importance of simplicity vs. efficiency, that your client doesn’t need to sacrifice sophistication nor efficiency with simple design.
  • Get the right people on your team, even if they’re smarter than you. Having people who are very good at what they do on your team is better than getting generalists who try hard to be good at everything.
  • Talk about innovations and decisions with your client. Make it clear from the get-go that decisiveness and a risk-taking mindset is key to the successful execution of innovative ideas.
  • Be honest about resources and constraints with your client. Be transparent about the truth, you’ll earn your client’s respect that way.
  • Don’t work for cheap. You know the market price of your work, so don’t accept less and spoil market.
  • Don’t concede to issues of irrelevant personal tastes from your client. Your client may have weird tastes and pet-peeves but your client may not be the only consumer of the product/service that you’re innovating. Your audience is king, your client is not.
  • If you sense someone on your client’s team is consistently killing innovation, pull the person aside and have a one-on-one discussion about innovation. This is a great opportunity to “educate” someone who might not have gotten it yet.
  • Your client may be the faux innovator, and you can’t run away from him. If the client continues to supersede your job to innovate, maybe you need to change your strategy or simply walk away.  
  • Celebrate a good client. If your client offers you plenty of room to innovate and make things happen, you should recognize the wonderful relationship and do even better work. 

About capturing your customers’ full value, read more on http://wp.me/pvnpY-85

Is Your Brand and Rolodex Online?

Over a recent trip to Detroit, Michigan, I had the opportunity to sit down with Scott Monty, head of global social media at Ford Motor Company. It was Twitter that brought us together, but it was his candidness that made our meetup a meaningful and memorable one.

We discussed about companies, social media and branding. So in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to put up blog posts that cover these various topics and share with you insights from and analysis of each one of them.

Insight #1: Are your sales and marketing superstars on all major social media networks?

The idea of personal branding is centuries old, but the practice of it is evolving. “The long-term strategy is more than just a super Rolodex,” said Scott Monty of Ford Motor Company. “You need to establish a presence on all major social media channels.”

Traditional, old-school sales folks will tell you they can bring to your company a book of business, or a “super Rolodex” as Scott Monty put it, to help you win more business. If you hire someone in that vein of acumen, you could probably do yourself a favor by asking one more question: What’s your online presence like and how well is your brand established on all major social media channels?

If the person gives you a I-have-no-idea-what-you’re-talking-about look, then walk way. You’d do yourself another favor by saving 15 minutes explaining to him or her what social media is and why it is so important to have your personal brand presence online.

Think you’re being too tough to ask a 50-year-old sales rockstar this question? No, you’re not. Traditional sales and marketing concepts and experience are still relevant, but the practice of it has evolved online, and will continue to do so. If the person doesn’t have an online presence, where do you think your company will head to – stone age? You need someone who has the understanding, interest and conviction to take your business and brand online.

But before we dig deeper into business branding, let’s talk about the relationship between personal branding and business branding, which is so often misunderstood, but which holds the key to successfully separating yourself and your company brand from competition.

Scott’s personal brand was established before he joined Ford. (Check out @ScottMonty on Twitter and his blog on www.scottmonty.com) “There was a misconception about me that I utilized the Ford brand to establish my brand. But nothing is farther from the truth–I have my own personal network and online brand established long ago, and when I joined Ford, I took my personal network and connect my friends and peers with the Ford brand which they wouldn’t otherwise be associated with.”

A year after joining Ford, Scott not only continues to thrive in his personal brand, he has also taken the Ford brand to a different level—social media. Ford is now becoming a brand known to the younger consumers and have caught on the long-tail buzz as a reliable, trusted and quality brand.

Many business owners feel that if their sales and marketing superstars have their personal brands, then they must not be serving the purpose of the company. That’s ABSOLUTELY unfounded thinking. In fact, if they look closer at how branding, PR and marketing are done these days, a personal network of thousands can boost and drum up support and interest of tens of thousands on a geometrical scale, making whatever your campaign is much more successful than ever.

So let’s take a look here at the distinct features, upside and downside with regards to social media branding if you’re still wondering what they all mean:

Social Media Branding Distinct Features Upside Downside
LinkedIn A combination of traditional Rolodex and instant updates. Group discussion feeds are available at your desired frequency. Plenty of discussion groups to join. Receives real-time feeds of what your network of contacts are up to on the Home page. You can expand your network via tapping into your 2nd and 3rd degree contacts. Still not the most user-friendly interface. Group discussions yield limited participation. It’s difficult to look up event information and events you’ve RSVP’d once it’s done. People typically do not accept your invitation unless they’ve already made a connection with you prior.
Facebook Allows you to create personal network groups and make your posts viewable by those in your group only. You can join other people’s groups and receive real-time updates of their feeds and discussions. Everything is instant and done in real-time. Information is shared the second you post it online. You can tap into your group participants’ network as you try to expand your network of influence. Users seem to be more open to accepting new contact invites in this channel. Though easier to add contacts, the quality of contacts may not be consistent with that of your LinkedIn connections. Facebook interface and functionalities may require users to spend a bit more time to dig deep and interact. Only practice can make your art of Facebooking perfect.
Twitter Real-time information in 140 characters – short, fast and sweet. Great for building up a vast network quick and make real-time announcements. Single-layer platform doesn’t allow you to do much other than leveraging contacts’ updates to expand your knowledge and your circle as well as to work through contacts to see what opportunities they can bring you.
Blog In the true journalist style, a blog becomes your newspaper or magazine to voice your opinion and share content at your desire. Gives you a sticky presence online and perhaps the best form of personal branding to date. It’s essentially your own platform that gives you the flexibility to write, post and show what you want to share. High commitment tool that forces you to deliver high-quality content at all times.
YouTube Viral videos on steroid!! YouTube offers you a fast and furious way to get a reaction and prompts call-to-action for a campaign. YouTube links can be embedded cross-platform on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. This is a great companion to your existing content and sharing opinions in real-time. Successful videos can get hundreds and thousands of views overnight and generate a ton of publicity. Video quality varies on YouTube. Viraling videos and coming up with ingenious content requires professional video skills, strategic thinking and strong commitment to execute. If done inappropriately, videos can cause backlash.
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