A Season (or 13) for Shopping (Wall Street Journal)

Creative RetailingMarketers are by nature creative people.  They have to be in order to keep up with changing customer preferences and highly competitive markets.  And some of the most creative marketers can be found in the retail industry.

Retailing has struggled in the last few years due to a slow economy, heavy competition, and value-conscious shoppers.  These factors have hit the retail industry hard resulting in many closing up shop.  As noted in a previous post, the list of recently failed retailers is extensive and includes such well-known brands as Borders, Blockbuster, Circuit City, KB Toys and many more.

Self-Service KioskAs a follow-up to our last post that suggested how some retailers are rethinking customer self-service options, it seems appropriate to take a look at the self-service concept in greater detail.   In some ways, self-service marketing is born out of the "customer is most important" mantra that many companies have adopted.

Over the last 20 years marketers have embraced this notion of a customer-centered business and have done so by investing heavily in specialized technologies, including customer relationship management (CRM) systems, advanced call centers and customer self-service equipment. In addition, to let the world know they are creating a business environment that empowers its customers, companies have aggressively praise their efforts through corporate press releases, website postings, white papers, social media comments, statements in annual reports and direct communication with customers.

By introducing new technologies and letting customers (and the world) know about it, companies see the potential of building a satisfied and highly loyal customer base. Yet, when the big picture is examined customers may discover that while a firm is patting itself on the back for its customer service gains they may, in fact, be whittling away at services that long-time customers have come to expect.

Major Grocer Getting Rid of Self-Checkout Lanes (MSNBC)

Self Service CheckoutGiving customers what they want is the mantra of nearly all marketers, and for the last 50-plus years has been arguably the most fundamental concept in marketing.  Marketers have been schooled to believe that success rests on giving customers what they “think” they want.  Many marketers have translated this to mean customers want to be empowered in deciding what products and services are best for them.  That is, they believe most customers want to know they are in control when dealing with the marketer.

Customer empowerment can be seen across all consumer and business markets, and in many forms.  But the most prominent form of empowerment is the move to offering self-service purchasing where previously the option was not available.  Some examples include the growth of such customer purchase options as home improvement retail stores, at home movie purchases, and online vacation booking.  For businesses, empowerment is evident with in-house publication design, online advertising and management of product shipment.

For organizations selling products or services intended for use by a large number of users within a single purchasing environment, such as a large corporation, completing the sale can be a confounding experience.  The sales cycle on these types of purchases can take months or even years to complete since input on the purchase may come from many areas of the company that normally would not be involved in purchase decisions that carry less impact.

Faced with this situation, members of the selling organization are taught to closely research the prospective buyer and seek out key influencers whose feedback and support may prove crucial.  Unfortunately, in too many instances the key influencers are not the predominant users of the purchased product and, consequently, they fail to appreciate problems that may occur as the organization transitions to the new purchase.  This is particularly the case in large-scale purchases where influencers, such as key executives, are sold on the good things the product has to offer for the entire organization but leave it up to organizational users to endure any pain associated with achieving the benefits promised when the purchase decision was made.

The 10 Most Valuable Trademarks (Forbes)

Value of Top Brand NamesHow does a company measure marketing success?  When asked this question most for-profit marketers will relate success to a financial measure, such as sales and profits, or to market statistics, such as level of market share.  Non-profit marketers may point to donation levels or attendance at a fundraising event.  While each of these measures is easily understandable, one of the most significant measures of success may be one that is intangible and, possibly, unexpected.

The measure is brand equity.  As we discuss in the post, Once Dead, Old Brand Names Are Revived, brand equity relates to financial advantages that are associated with the name of a product or company.  While the level of brand equity depends on how the company conducts its business, in essence brand equity is a measure of the value of the name itself.