Is It Time to Redefine ‘Local’ Marketing?

It has been exactly a year since I penned my last column. At the time I was suffering from exactly the issues facing our industry; vendor companies and marketers had simplified “local” to mean the Google Map Pack. I was simply tired of spinning what has become a commoditized approach to a monolithic product. While I sat on the sidelines this past year, I took the opportunity to dig back into my study of brands, locality, mobile and consumers.

Local marketing communication has always fascinated me.  The fact that consumers of discrete geographies use differing approaches based on locality, media dynamics and linguistics when shopping for products and services. For example, if you are selling a device that protects your home from theft in the North or West, you call it a “Security System.” However if you are selling that same device down South, you refer to it as “Burglar Alarm.” Layer on simple findings like the above with the differences in mobile vs. desktop usage by region with preferred purchase mode (e-commerce vs. bricks and mortar stores) and startling findings begin to paint a picture of opportunity to rethink a local go-to-market strategy.

Yet as I survey most major brands, I see little or no differentiation of strategy or execution across local markets. In fact, we now have examples of how a single national approach has damaged brands like Macy’s.  Macy’s was a once leading retailer that was highly differentiated by individual market. Lee Peterson in a recent article that was published on pretty much sums up what led to the decline and the missed opportunity:

“Decades of distinct market knowledge ended up devalued and then simply disappeared, rolled up into a singular corporate branding and buying approach. But the forces of finance pushed for chain-wide savings ahead of doing something that might have helped the category: Staying closer than ever to shoppers. In effect, Macy’s stopped doing the one thing it was good at doing better than anyone else — something that might have saved it from obsolescence during tough times, from recessions to Amazon’s looming dominance in e-commerce.”

This is a pattern that has developed in many industries based on the mistaken belief that a singular approach is more cost effective and will deliver the same or even increasing sales results. In the incomparable words of a newly elected world leader: “WRONG.” Local targeting requires a local focus.

What Was Old is New Again
We have reached a pivot point where local market nuances and differences can create definable opportunity. I am not saying that the age of the big box retail or e-commerce portal are over, but if a brand does a better job at leveraging local marketing it can create a competitive advantage and differentiation point. The key is to separate traditional thinking from single strategy tactics and channels into integrated and tailored market specific plans based on defined or researched consumer behavior. A great integrated local strategy looks sort of like “Intent Based” marketing on steroids.

Required key points of understanding of ‘individual market’ dynamics:

  • Keyword/phrase lexicons
  • Media consumption of awareness media
  • Mode of directional media consumption (mobile vs. desktop vs. voice based searching)
  • Selection criteria (attributes vs. location)
  • Preferred purchase venue (e-com vs. in-store)

Armed with these types of insights the brand can then develop local/regionally tailored campaigns that leverage local market nuances and yield higher conversion rates.

Is Geo-Targeted Media the Local Approach?
Geo-targeting ads on Google’s network, Facebook, et cetera, can certainly be a start of a local approach, but they should not be the only focus. One reason: geo-targeting is not always 100% accurate. For example a desktop search for “Plumber Redding” returns geo-targeted results for both Redding, Connnecticut, and Redding, California, even though my location information is known to Google (Connecticut):


Additionally, highly localized media properties that are hyperlocal in focus can in some cases offer more cost-effective and efficient (less competition) advertising options.

I often hear of complaints that brands are being priced out of Google and other top portal sites. A good hedging strategy against escalating ad cost is to expand the venues that a brand considers in their ad plan. Interestingly, my firm has researched in excess of 20,000 locally focused hyperlocal websites that often provide ad placements that can generate sales leads at a fraction of the cost of trying to geo-target larger portal sites. Many of these hyperlocal sites’ advertisers are limited to local ‘mom and pop’ type businesses sold locally by a media rep. This absence of brand advertising can provide a distinct opportunity to stand out as a branded option away from other brand competitors.

The Bad News
A true local approach is harder work than simply geo-targeting ad placements. It requires specialized tools that can research media options and conduct ROI comparisons in near real-time. Programmatic platforms that focus solely on hyperlocal media options are just beginning to emerge. So today it takes a balance of manual and automated effort to tap the full potential of an integrated local media strategy/plan.

The good news is that employing an integrated local approach pays dividends in the cost effectiveness of lead generation. Also, if a brand markets via franchises or local dealer/agent networks, the relationship with the field organization improves as they begin to feel and experience localized ad support in their specific markets on the media venues they are most familiar with.

Finally, by tuning media venues and ad messaging to local market nuances a brand can sell more by being better in tune with the specific marketplace.

This article was originally published on


Omni-Channel Marketing Meets Consumer Engagement

Omni-channel marketing seeks to provide the consumer a seamless shopper experience whether in-store, online, desktop or mobile. Retail marketers like Starbucks, Sephora, and Crate & Barrel have made moving towards this goal a priority, investing in processes and platforms to ensure consumers enjoy a familiar and consistent interaction whether brick, click, swipe or scan. As this continues to become the norm, consumers will expect frictionless interactions with all brands.

This sets the bar high for CPG marketers, where a seamless experience remains a challenge. Some marketers are making strides because they’ve adopted an integrated approach to consumer engagement. Others who keep their marketing teams siloed and focused on short-term reactive programs will struggle. Social Engagement, Shopper, Influencer, CRM, Loyalty and other touchpoints aren’t united around the customer, decreasing efficiencies and sending multiple, conflicting, or inappropriately timed messages.

The silos that companies insist on organizing around are meaningless to the consumer. Omnichannel? Touchpoints? Consumers don’t think that way. To them, there are no channels; there are no boundaries. Just one brand experience. And often it’s not a good one.

What could be conduits for personalized messaging are being used as broadcast channels sending one-way messages to everyone. This does not bode well for the future of CPG brands, as younger consumers prefer personalized interactions. American Express’ research found that 48% of Millennials expect brands to customize offers to suit their needs, and 39% will go out of their way to use a customized offer.

More and more, consumers expect brands to recognize who they are. Better targeting online has taught them that in-the-moment relevance is possible: research area rugs, see ads for area rugs, get promotions for area rugs. A recent study by Virtual Incentives found that 56% of consumers said that receiving a personalized incentive would improve their consideration of the brand. Sixty-three percent wanted to be rewarded for their purchase loyalty. The vast majority also indicated that use of personalization made a brand seem smart, unique and caring.

The good news for CPG brands is that consumers are more open than ever to share their details, attitudes, interests and behavior to get at a meaningful brand experience. A study from Magnetic/MyBuys reports a majority of consumers willing to be tracked by companies if it means a more personalized experience through messages and offers that are for the right thing at the right time.

So if digital media can do it, then brand engagement efforts should do it as well.

A Place to Call “Home”

One way CPG brands can begin moving towards an omnichannel experience is to provide consumers with a brand-owned home base. Through this community of actual brand users, marketers can recognize who their most loyal customers are and begin personalizing engagement as the consumer moves from discovery to post-purchase usage to relevant advocacy. This improved consumer/brand interaction drives meaningful, two-way communication, leading to increased loyalty and sales.

Rally Around One Customer, One Journey

Rather than separating marketing teams by touch point with programmatic goals, a brand-owned home base unites marketers around the consumer and their journey. The shared goal becomes delivering a consistent experience, with the right messages delivered at the right time, one consumer at a time, over the long term. This requires abandoning the short-term, quick-hit thinking that lacks a plan for building a lasting relationship beyond the promotion.

Continually Improve the Brand Experience through Real-Time Insights

The community also becomes the brand’s consumer insights engine, offering real-time access to the attitudes, behaviors, opinions and ideas of their actual purchasers — not a panel of likely users arranged via a third-party vendor. These insights enable continual improvement of the brand experience — from product development, line extension, messaging, packaging, promotions, channel mix and more.

The days of consumers tolerating fractured, one-way interactions with CPG brands are numbered. Marketers should consider a platform that enables a fluid brand experience whether the customer is online, on their phone, on social, through email or in store.

Originally published by , Columnist, January 16, 2017, 11:00 AM

5 Trends That Will Change The Way Your Customers Will Shop In 2017

At first glance, the queues for 2016’s hot-ticket holiday item, Snapchat Spectacles, might not have looked all that different from the round-the-block lines that formed for the Tickle Me Elmo craze of 20 years ago. But a closer inspection reveals how the simple act of shopping has been quietly transformed during that time.

Rather than waiting at the mall to make their purchase, Snapchat’s hopeful customers were lining up to buy specs at Snapbot vending machines in exotic locales such as the Grand Canyon, the Rose Bowl and Big Sur.

From limited releases of hot products sold in the unlikeliest of places to personalized shopping experiences that meld the online and offline world, the world of retail is poised to get even more interesting in the year ahead. Here’s a look at what’s in store:

Stores are out, experiences are in

Ten years ago, walking into a cool boutique to see a DJ spinning was novel. Today, it’s about the least a store can do to keep up with the times. Brands that are standing out are pulling out the stops to turn shopping into a rich and immersive experience.

Back to Snapchat, for example: selling those specs via vending machines was a quirky touch, but the real genius was in putting them in oddball locations. By doing that, Snapchat turned the simple act of shopping into a treasure hunt and adventure — even for those who didn’t manage to snag a pair before they sold out.

Similarly, brick-and-mortar outlets are also upping their game. Now that anyone can buy anything online, stores that are staying relevant are offering highly curated and immersive experiences. Whether it’s yoga classes and running clinics at Lululemon or grabbing a haircut and an espresso at Frank + Oak’s flagship Toronto store, we’ll see stores become less about being a place to consummate a transaction than a place to immerse yourself in a lifestyle.

Forget faceless brands, connection is key

Back in the day, you had a personal connection with the shops on Main Street. Malls and big-box stores changed all that. These days, however, we’re no longer content to buy from faceless — even if well-known — brands, and smart retailers are using creative tools to build a personal relationship with would-be buyers.

Currently, nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in the world of celebrity. Last year, for example, the likes of Drake and the Weeknd extended their personas into popup shops and full-scale brand lines that give fans more of what they want: direct ways to connect with their favourite personalities.

Meanwhile, Kith NYC designer Ronnie Fieg recently used Instagram to create a real-time window into a product launch event in Aspen. What we’re seeing in all of these cases is online sellers leveraging technology to humanize and personalize a transaction — emphasizing the link between maker and user — which is a far cry from the kind of shopping experience you get in a big-box store.

Evolution — and democratization — of the flash sale

Flash Sales are a time-honored tradition in the world of retail. But enter the Internet and things get a lot more interesting.

These days, putting a time limit on a product or price isn’t just a means to unload overstock, it’s become standard practice for product launches. Celeb cosmetics queen Kylie Jenner has expertly employed this technique, with her limited edition birthday and holiday collections flying off the virtual shelf.

But, of course, bots and resellers have also infiltrated the online sales space, with everything from Kanye West’s Yeezy sneakers to Hatchimals winding up on eBay for several times the retail price. In the year ahead, you can expect smart companies to come up with ways to ensure the right people — actual customers and fans with a history with the brand — are being ushered to the front of the queue. (Shopify launched one product aimed at solving this problem this year, which allows buyers to check out with one tap and sellers to handle thousands of orders per minute.)

Direct-to-Consumer takes a bigger piece of the retail pie

This holiday season, US shoppers spent as much online as they did in actual stores. But behind that headline is an even more interesting story: the direct-to-consumer revolution. From Michael Kors to Oreo, more companies are sidestepping the middleman. Ditching department stores in favour of selling directly to consumers will continue to be a powerful force transforming the way we shop in 2017.

Why? Selling straight to customers creates an intimate and immediate feedback loop that leads to a better customer experience. Companies like AYR, Bonobos and DSTLD jeans are pioneering a highly responsive approach: using sales data and customer feedback to adjust their styles, cuts and size runs in real time. A reality where your favourite store is never out of your size or preferred style is right around the corner.

Shopping gets more social

Imagine browsing your social media feed and buying any product that catches your eye with the swipe of your thumb. In 2017 this will become a widespread reality. Social media platforms like Pinterest, Houzz, Twitter and Instagram are already breaking the browse/buy barrier with options for in-app impulse buying. Now add to that streamlined pay systems like Apple Pay, which is poised to go from a niche payment option to a mainstream expectation, and ordering that eye candy will become almost dangerously easy.

Meanwhile, online sellers are also teaming up with services like UberRUSH and Postmates to solve the delayed gratification problem posed by buying online. Teaming up with innovative services gets products into the hands of customers on the day they buy and contributes to a shopping experience that’s faster and more convenient.

With the retail world in the midst of a reinvention powered by technology, one thing’s for sure: the only limitation today’s merchants face is their own creativity. The bar for retail was raised in 2016 and it’s set to go higher in the year ahead. The good news for consumers: there’s never been a better time to be a shopper.

This articles was originally published on

Retailers use Omni-Channel Analytics from SAS to keep fickle Customers captivated

Connecting with consumers when and how they want is retail’s holy grail. Meaningful contact with customers translates directly into higher customer satisfaction, healthier profits and increased loyalty. How do retailers like excel at customer interactions, in robust and lean economies alike? Chris McCann, President and CEO of, and other retail leaders will join SAS at the 2017 National Retail Federation Big Show to reveal how omni-channel analytics makes a difference.

“Our ability to understand what our customers need and want is our competitive advantage,” said McCann. “Analytics help increase customer retention, shopping frequency and the average spend within and across our brands. In short, SAS helps us deepen lifetime relationships with customers, and that’s our lifeblood.”

During the last 17 years, has trusted SAS Analytics to guide better decisions. The company recently expanded its relationship with SAS by establishing an enterprise platform for data management and omnichannel marketing. SAS helps the retailer retrieve, sort and analyze data to better serve customers and target product offerings. With SAS, develops an insightful view of its customers across brands by orchestrating relevant interactions that enhance loyalty and strengthen customer trust.

Omni-Channel analytics helps retailers interact in a timely fashion

Omnichannel analytics from SAS helps retailers gain predictive insights about a customer’s buying journey. It can improve the precision and relevancy of a retailer’s assortment planning and marketing campaign effectiveness plus allow the business to make data-driven decisions regardless of the channel involved. SAS Analytics helps retailers drive higher profits, lower inventory costs and increase customer satisfaction.

“Consumers expect relevant, timely, consistent interactions with the retailers they prefer regardless of how or when they shop,” said Lori Schafer, SAS Retail Executive Advisor and moderator of the session featuring McCann. “The only way to meaningfully act upon all the data retailers capture is to apply analytics that reveal insight and predict outcomes that increase overall customer lifetime value. Data management and analytics are a necessity to modern retailers.”

This article was originally published on

Technologies That Will Revolutionize Online Retail

Customer Experience quality triggers eCommerce trends. It is the most competitive area through which eCommerce brands are trying to distinguish themselves from the lot and earn brand loyalty for a longer and stronger business run.

With players like Amazon setting benchmarks in customer experience, right from same-day delivery to drone-delivery testing, there are a lot more trends that could become a norm for eCommerce players by the end of the decade. Here are some of the interesting eCommerce trends that will come our way by 2020.

1. Virtual Trials will replace Showroom Experience in Fashion

Augmented reality-based trails will become common in retail fashion outlets, limiting stock only to warehouses or stocking rooms. The pleasure of going for a garment trial will be turned digital with the help of AR.

Result: Space saved but not at the cost of conventional retail shopping experience.

2. In-App Messaging will help Brands connect with Consumers in a more personalised manner

A majority of online retailers have already turned or are turning to mobile apps to reach out to customers but, the fact is, user engagement across apps is still a major challenge even for companies that have adopted a mobile strategy earlier. In-app messaging is one of the eCommerce trends to follow for multi-vendor marketplace websites and apps.

Result: A closer understanding of customer behavior helps in knowing what’s important to them to leverage on successful opportunities.

3. Beacons to connect the dots in Omni-Channel experience

Suppose you have both a marketplace website and a retail store. Customers who jump across multiple mediums are likely to use online medium for placing orders and pick up products from the retail store. Such customers can be targeted with additional offers during their retail store visit as a part of extending their omnichannel experience.

Result: Seamless brand experience, personalization and opportunities to upsell and cross sell.

Now, let’s move on to the practices and adoptions which heavy duty eCommerce websites like multi-vendor marketplaces and exclusive eCommerce stores will have to implement by 2020.

4. The rise in number of Customer Touchpoints

With the emergence of multiple devices like wearables, Smart TVs, connected appliances, and much more, the touch points through which customers can reach an eCommerce brand have increased.

Result: An increased level of shopping convenience and brands can study which channel is effective in driving sales.

5. The sharing and renting trend in Travel will infiltrate other domains

One of the top eCommerce trends will be the sharing and renting idea that has been globalized by some players like AirBnB into other domains, mainly hardware. This will have a negative impact on the hardware manufacturing and selling business but the fact is, businesses will have to face this stiffness soon.

Result: Shoppers can save money by renting or swapping instead of owning.

6. Online Stores will get physical with showcases for winning Customers’ trust

Shoppers have more than enough options from exclusive web stores and marketplace websites but you must first earn their trust to garner healthy conversion rates. The question is how?

Physical stores created by online brands for the sole purpose of providing a glimpse of the product face-to-face will be one of the top 10 eCommerce trends by 2020.

Result: Win customers with your showcase stores and turn them into brand evangelists forever.

7. Pop-Up stores to help Manufacturers better

Popup stores are set to catapult sales and brand reach of manufacturers. As popup stores demand less storage space without a need for maintaining and managing it for long-term, manufacturers and private-label retailers can improve their sales through this practice.

Result: Added advantage for manufacturers in the retail eCommerce market in the coming years

8. ‘Click and Collect’ will help in facing order fulfillment challenges

Order fulfillment challenges of online retailers, especially hefty multi-vendor marketplace websites will be taken care by a ‘Click and collect’ model. With a few players like Amazon leading by example, it will become a one of the highly adopted eCommerce trends by 2020 with more brands perfecting the art. However, same-day delivery will also become a must-have factor for brands.

Result: Less investment of logistics and deliveries with increased order fulfillment.

9. UX improvements will help in better conversions

User experience will be a deciding factor for brands to cash in on a customer’s mood to buy. Web and mobile apps with great user experience will play a significant role in reducing cart abandonments and app uninstalls. Mobile apps that lead to products and carts with swipes, drags and taps actions will be the breadwinners.

Result: The smoother and more connected the screen transitions are, the better conversions will be.

10. The Social world will probe commerce

Social media platforms where users are available in abundance, will come up with their own marketplaces to leverage their rich user bases. Additionally, their insights over user behavior and preferences will help social marketplaces provide more personalized suggestions.

Result: Online retail brands have a highly equipped channel to help them reach their potential customers.

Originally published in SiteProNews