2014.01 | email offers have become flyers

email-hellDear Valued Retailer,

It isn’t me.  It’s you.  Until you can understand the basic rules of relationship, we need to take a break.

It all started pleasantly enough.  I had admired you from afar.  When I tentatively visited your place, the people there were just like me, and even offered me some useful advice on picking out an outfit that I quite liked.  I truly appreciated the sweet one time deal you offered me to get my email address.  I was a little hesitant, but your brand seems reflective of my personal style, and I didn’t mind having you in my inbox.  The people there said it would not be given to anyone else.  You even said you could send my receipt in email and that’s neat, right? I decided to go for it.

Then it began.

I didn’t notice it at first.  I’ve been getting  so much email lately because, let’s face it, I got overexuberant with all the offers everyone gave me in exchange for my email address.  What could it hurt?  A few extra emails is no big change.   They started to pile up, and I figured I’d just read them when I had a bit of time.  But my personal inbox started to look like my work inbox.

One Saturday morning I had a chance to review my personal email and started scrolling through the pile.  I read your first message updating me on the latest fashions for women this season.  I started wondering what on earth would drive you to send me such a thing.  I’m not a woman.  I don’t buy clothes for women.  Must be a mistake.  I’ll just delete it.  No big deal.  You’re my friend, right?

I opened the next one and it asked me if I had said yes – to getting married – and that if I had, you could help me build the party of my life.  Hmmm.  What is going on here?  Let’s scan through the history.  You sent me – let’s see – emails for 12 days in a row. Hmmm.  Discounts and free shipping are in the title of all of them.  Wow.  Pretty much the same as my entire inbox because of my personal email sharing indiscretions.  Sort by sender, aaaaand Delete.

The next day I got another, and then another.  I’m going to have to end this.  It feels like work.  It’s making me not like you.  I decided to hit the unsubscribe button.  THEN you want to know if I want to just hear from you every week instead of every day.  Hmmm.  We’ve moved on to bargaining.  Give you one more chance?  Well… I didn’t know that was an option, but you’re not offering me anything I want, when I want it, or how I want it, so let’s just end it.

Let’s face it.  You don’t know how to have a relationship.  We just met and you acted too familiarly.  You called every day.  You offered help, but because it was SO much it felt like you wanted something; not like you were offering me something.   You acted like you were the only thing in my life.  I like you but I don’t need new clothing every day.  You said the offer was just for me, but all of my friends asked me if I got it too.  I felt betrayed.

Now I come to you and you say you could just call on me weekly as long as we agree to it?  Why is the onus on me to gear down on the familiarity?  Seems to me that you have more to gain from this relationship at the outset.  Nope.  We’re done.  I don’t feel the love.  When I need something, I’ll just check the website.  Maybe I’ll just stick something in my online cart and wait for you to notice and offer me a discount.

I thought you cared, but it turns out you just want my money.  I know you are going to ask me to join some other club or scheme or something, but you can forget it.  The trust is gone.

Thanks for the laughs.

Your Not So Faithful Shopper.


I jest of course, but this holiday season really brought the current state of email marketing and having an ongoing dialogue with clients.  Let’s be clear.  This is not easy.  In fact, I would argue that for me personally, email offers have basically become the annoying paper flyers that fill your mailbox.  They have become noise instead of a conduit for a personalized ongoing conversation.

Nobody has the magic formula on ongoing communication, however, there are some things I have noticed from my own experience:

  • Frequency – Like a regular relationship, you can’t just assume I love you so much that I want to hear from you every. single. day.  That’s just making it weird.  I don’t need to think about shopping for anything every single day. Don’t fill my inbox.  Start slowly, maybe monthly, and we can move forward from there.  The necessity of your marketing department to look busy does not justify filling my inbox.  Also – think about your target market and your products.  Just because I buy a wallet from a leather goods company doesn’t mean I need to hear from them constantly via email.  The product should stand on its own.  Be intelligent, thoughtful and respectful about how often you contact me.
  • Personalization – If you are saying the deal is just for me, it better be just for me.  This isn’t the first time I’ve shopped.  I have friends online AND in the real world with the same taste.  I know if they get the same deals or not.   99% of the time, the deals are not personalized, or at least – they don’t feel personalized.  Want to blow my mind?  Send me an offer for the pants that go with my new jacket – or the coloured shoelaces that go with my new shoes AND my new shirt.  Let me know that lots of stuff is on sale that is MY SIZE.  Send me an offer on the razor blades I always buy if I buy the shaving cream.  That is a personalized offer.  20% off jackets is NOT a personalized offer.  20 cents off Premium Plus because I bought them in the past is a personalized deal, but it’s not enough to be worth my time.   Use my data well and I’ll welcome you to it.
  • Transparency – I know you you’re selling  stuff, you know you’re selling stuff. Let’s all be up front about it.   If you offer me something, give me the chance to say I don’t want it.  You can be funny about it, but be respectful of my time by letting me get out of this thing easily. If you send me 2 emails and I don’t respond, how about a message that says – seems like you don’t want to hear about this stuff.  If we’re bothering you, we can lay off.  Just hit this button and hit send and we’ll fix it for you.
  • Offer Targeting – Everyone wants the holy grail – if you bought this, you will certainly want that, but it’s difficult.  You will inevitably get it wrong.  First, I’m not a girl.  Don’t forget that.  Basic stuff needs to be sorted NOW.  Once you get past that, you can offer me things I might not want by making offers.  That’s okay, but do me a favour – only show me a few things – not 20 things.  If I see 20 things, I’m not reading it.  If I don’t like your suggestions, let me tell you if I don’t like what you suggested.  Make it easy and fast and I’ll do it.  You’ll learn from it, and I’ll not be bothered any longer.
  • Messaging – There better be something in this message for me if I’m going to even read it – let alone have a dialog with you.  Do you really think I’m going to read a 2 page message about suit jackets- or god forbid, skirts? I’m surprised you’ve read this far – many will not.  ALWAYS have the topic and message be about something I might care about.  Keep it short and to the point.  In business school almost 20 years ago, they gave me half a page.  I’ll give you a couple of sentences.
  • Evernote Camera Roll 20140103 133425Medium Look, I’m sure you have lots of great ideas that add value that aren’t just about discounts.  That’s great and I might like to hear about it, but not in my email.  If you have lots of cool stuff to share on your brand, put it on social media – be it Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – wherever your people are.  Put the ideas in blog posts.  Lookbooks are coming around in many new and novel ways.  Make all of it accessible within your mobile app if you have one.  If I like your brand and what you’re showing me, I’ll follow you and remember you when the time comes. Remind me of that when I leave your email list.  
  • Control – I have a feeling that people at companies of all types constantly have meetings and measure how many subscribers they have and how many people are constantly contacted through these email lists. They are loathe to drop any as it’s seen as a negative.  Here’s the thing.  Hiding that unsubscribe button at the bottom is disingenuous.  Make it obvious.  Make it a big button.  Do you really want me to get messages I don’t want?  No you do not.  It will make me resent you.  Not the feeling you are looking for.
  • Timing – I know everyone thinks that by timing I mean Christmas or Black Thursday, but I don’t.  If you want me to buy something, get the information to me when I’m planning on buying.  I’m not planning on scanning my inbox for goodies.  That’s basically the flyer method moved to an electronic format.  That’s not how my kids are going to shop either.  If you want to get me to buy, get me when I’m shopping.  Hard to do that with email.  In fact, that’s why I suggest the content I get in many emails would be better placed on a blog, twitter feed, or lookbook accessible in an app or online in all manner of ways when I’m at your store or at your website.

The bottom line is that as always, selling is relationships.  Be intelligent about relationships.  Treat people like you would like to be treated.  Be respectful, be up front, and treat them as you would your friends – because they are your friends.  That’s how I’d like to be treated and so would you.  The tools and the media are available, and most of what we need to guide us we use every day with our personal relationships.

Remember your clients and targets are your friends when trying to have a conversation and they will treat you as a friend – oh, and buy more stuff.

2013.36 | leveraging pinterest in store


At this point, everyone in retail is aware that social media is a key selling tool for retailers; not just a novelty.  From a specialty and department store retailer perspective, Pinterest is of particular value. Pinterest provides a focused window into the taste and style choices of users in a way that no other social platform does. While Facebook, Twitter and others are about sharing your life and relationships, Pinterest is all about lists of favourite things that is easily separated from the minutia of life details. It’s built for shopping. That focus appears to be translating into sales for retailers, as statistics show that Pinterest’s role in driving sales is growing compared to the other social media platforms.

The challenge for retailers is to take that data and translate it into sales across their enterprise through every channel possible.

Big players are taking notice and using Pinterest in some unique ways:


  • Nordstrom physically tagged their most tagged items on Pinterest. Understanding customer popularity enables them to highlight the most popular online items in their stores.
  • JCrew released their September style guide to Pinterest followers BEFORE sending it to their catalog subscribers. This enabled a more interactive experience than a catalog at what must have been very little incremental production cost. The set even has contact information to connect for advice on assembling a look.

While there is great potential around eCommerce sales in establishing a retailer Pinterest account, obtaining followers, and getting a feel for your client bases likes, there is also rich data available about clients that goes beyond a single retailer brand that can also be used in many different ways across the retailer enterprise. Some examples of data use include:

  • Obtain insight directly from your clients and potential clients on product interest and taste – no need for data mining
  • Gain vision on products your clients favour from other retailers and sources
  • Highlight opportunities for product sale / bundle / offer opportunities
  • Review a perceived neutral location for client opinion
  • Opportunity for differentiation on customer experience 
  • Directly connect current and potential clients with the items they want both online and in store.

The direct connection of clients with items they may wish to purchase is a very powerful one.

pinterest-jcrew-sept-style-guideOur personalities go deeply into what we wish to purchase and our underlying satisfaction with our selections. When we visit stores, with only a few minutes onsite, we can only provide store associates the briefest glimpses of our personality to decide what the best match for a product may be. What if instead of analyzing our appearance, a few minutes of discussion and products we favour, the store associate scan through pages of items we select that represent our personal style, our interests and how we live our lives?

As a data feed available online, Pinterest can provide that window into the preferences of clients. With the right associates and the right tools, this view into a client’s personality can be used to drive more sales in stores by showing consumers items that will most interest them based on their tastes.

How to proceed in store?  Here are some high level thoughts:

  • Obtain permission from clients to connect their Pinterest accounts to their loyalty accounts in your enterprise customer database.  Always ask for permission to use their data and explain what the data will be used for.  Always make it optional to share.  If you change your use, highlight it to them.  Offer them something in return for this information (offer, points, etc.)  The sharing of information must be mutually beneficial.  This sharing must be customer choice and respect their privacy.
  • Leverage a tablet based clienteling solution to provide access to trusted in store client advisors to provide them with client style preferences from your collections and from other sources.  Train them to make recommendations on current store inventory based on cues from client Pinterest accounts.  Train them to be sensitive to the fact that clients are sharing their data client benefit and that it must be respected and clients must feel that their privacy is kept at the level they wish to keep it.
  • deartopshopWhen the program begins, have the staff explain what the clienteling app does and what it is for.  If clients do not wish to take part, immediately flag them to not be approached again.  Enable the tablets to identify clients by as many identification methods as possible – phone, email, client id, or whatever is available.  Let the client choose.
  • Analyze data from clients that agree to share, and leverage data on other brands preferred by clients for competitive and alliance partnerships.  (Apparel sellers could partner with shoe  or accessory seller)
  • Train sales staff to sell against or complement competitive items within a client Pinterest list.

Connecting Pinterest data to other cross channel information such as customer populated sizes and preferences, website wishlists, purchase history and more on a tablet provide comprehensive picture of the client that can enable truly amazing customer experiences.  While Pinterest isn’t the central feature of an in store tablet based clienteling solution, it can certainly add some unique value and is worthy of consideration.

2013.09 | Barclay Center App | Reddit

Barclay Center – I find myself more than slightly jealous of visitors to Brooklyn’s Barclay Center.  The Barclay Center App has all of the nonsense we expect from all apps we download, team schedules, and pictures of the venue, but they also have some really incredible features made available from wifi in the stadium including:

  • play_e_slamcam1_gb1_576access to live in game video
  • access to the live TV feed
  • replays with rewind capability
  • up to four different camera angles
  • ordering food from your seat
  • submit messages for scoreboard display

It appears this is primarily used by the Nets, but is able to work at concerts as well.  What better way to allow fans a better view of the game from the worst seats than by leveraging the screens in their hand?  Not only that, but enabling in seat ordering is a real treat.  I’d be interested to see the operational side of the food ordering.  If it got too popular, it might be challenging to fulfill orders for delivery in a timely manner.  I’m sure the team at the Barclay Center would love to tackle that problem!

Reddit – While it doesn’t have the wide audience of Facebook, the ubiquity of Twitter or the slick visual appeal of Pinterest, Reddit represents a tremendous opportunity for retailers in two ways: to gain information and to influence customer experiences.


While Reddit is not nearly as well known as these other online communities, they still represent a huge swath of humanity with 37 BILLION page views in 2012 alone.    I would encourage retailers to get on Reddit as I have to read through what is being said about their brands and technology and see what can be gleaned from it.  Like any other wide open discussion, you can expect incredible enthusiasm, fantastic negativity, and lots and lots of stories and comments.  Take all of it with a grain of salt, but the information may change your perspective or drive discussion in your organization and is 100% free consumer input.  Visit reddit.com and type in your company name in the search box.  Before you visit, you may want to understand how it works.

I would not recommend retailers or their representatives fake a consumer post outlining the wonders of any item or their brand.  From my many hours on Reddit I have the sense that full on commercialism will get someone downvoted to oblivion, but even worse is the commercial disguised as a post from a Redditor.

Lots of actors complete an AMA (ask-me-anything) post to shill their latest movies, and Reddit welcomes that with the understanding that for a short paragraph asking for consideration of seeing a movie or reading a book (and maybe not even that), Redditors get a once in a lifetime chance to ask a question directly of a famous person.

If a retailer wants to drive their brand in Reddit, they could have someone famous and beloved by the tech/geek/youth community speak on their behalf and not be too forward about it.    A better vehicle for leveraging Reddit is the provided messaging capability between registered users.  If retailers see a negative or positive post or comment and act to remedy the problem as many have via Twitter and Facebook, Reddit represents a vehicle for customer service.  Getting more information from a failed customer experience and resolving it can provide positive feedback from a large audience.  Combining the advice from the recent Customer Service Podcast on CBC’s Under the Influence with solving complaints and problems seen in  Reddit could drive some real customer loyalty and interest as long as the intent is genuine.

2012.23 | Nike AR, Uniqlo Pins, SSD & Pickie

Nike Fuel Station at BoxPark – Check out this Nike Store in the UK that leverages a number of new and unique technologies in store including an augmented reality app on iPads.

NikeFuel Station at Boxpark from Dezeen on Vimeo.

Uniqlo @ PinterestUniqlo, the Japanese casual apparel retailer recently “took over” Social Media Site Pinterest with a number of shell  accounts to draw attention to their new release of mesh products.  Pinterest uses an endless scrolling format on their pages, and Uniqlo built a playful sort of animation visible as users scrolled down the page.  Clever and artistic stunt to garner attention in a non-traditional manner in a non-traditional channel.

Falling SSD Costs – I’ve been getting more and more inquiries on the potential of leveraging Solid State Drive (SSD) versus Hard Disk Drive (HDD) technology for data storage on POS systems.  The costs of SSD have been dropping for years.  Seems like the drop is getting even more precipitous.  Hopefully we can look forward to the speed and reliability of SSD at a reasonable price in the very near future.

Pickie – I’m not sure if we can handle yet another social media channel, but here is another one of interest to retailers.  Pickie is a customized magazine that shows products based on your social media feeds.  You need a Facebook account to get an invite for the limited beta.  Social Media is increasingly being leveraged to sell to us.  While it could work, it makes you wonder if you want all your friends to run out and buy all the gear you lust over.

2010.48 | Retail Technology Themes in 2010

As we are approaching the end of 2010, I have noted a number of common themes in retail technology.  While many of the progressions are not mainstream at this point, these are certainly areas that were discussed often and are maturing.

Social Media –  Impossible to ignore, but rather touchy feely in the results department, you can’t escape social media.  Now it’s a part of everything and you can’t escape it.  While it’s been maturing for many years, it really feels as though 2010 was the year that social media went mainstream and became fully commercial, with users being able to ‘like’ things.   The most common question from my customers is around how retailers are using and obtaining results with Social Media.  My best suggestion is to watch what other retailers are doing.    Expect social media to take matters into its own hands in the monetizing department moving forward.  Facebook credits, Facebook based stores, Facebook gift carding, and a strengthening Facebook eCommerce platform means more transactions are likely to take place.  None of this is really new, it’s just gaining traction.

iPad – The iPad is the Social Media of the device market.  We can’t get away from it either.  While still an potentially expensive an unproven long term tool, it has been embraced by retail at the consumer level and as a tool at the store.  Combining social media and iPads is even an option some retailers are using.  Naked Pizza is using Chimpadeedoo as a novel way to gather email addresses for email lists and special offers.  One example of many.

Mobile Scanning – This goes both ways.  There has been increased scanning of codes from mobile phones in 2010 for payments and offers.  With better cameras, more powerful smartphones and better software, consumers are doing their own mobile scanning as well.  Price comparison apps are the primary application, but gaming type apps that bring real life and the internet together have gained popularity as well.  A recent addition called Fooducate uses the technology to allow users to educate themselves on the nutritional value of their potential purposes.

Location Based Apps – The GPS enabled functionality of smartphones makes them a great fit for shopping based on where you are.  Localized searches are a boon to shoppers.  I can’t remember how I lived without that.  One great example – check out Zagat’s Food Trucks site to see if your favourite street meat vendor is nearby.  It’s only NYC for now, but you can see how this could catch on in urban areas.  Augmented reality really started with Yelp’s Monocle in August 2009, has also taken steps forward  in 2010 with more iPhones able to use it and an increasing arsenal of apps.  The GPS capability is only getting better, the technology purveyors claim, saying that we can now search within stores.

Mobile Payments – While we’re still not at mobile wallet nirvana, vendors can accept payments on iPhones, and now Blackberries.  [Except for Canadians and Europeans – anyone see an EMV version yet?] Given so many payment schemes, the electronic wallet is looking more and more possible.  Visa in Europe is even launching a service that will examine mobile location against credit card purchase location to minimize fraud and reduct false postive potential calls to users.

2010.34 | Canadian Retailers and Social Media

Update:  Permanent page with ongoing updates is available.

If you have been wondering what Canadian Retail organizations have been doing with social media, you’re probably not the only one.  Having spent a fair amount of time looking across the board, the use varies widely.  From squatting on a name, to full fledged use of multiple platforms with engaging conversation and offers specific to the audience on a platform, many retailers are feeling their way through the process and validating what the return is on using these platforms.  The common denominator is that everyone is experimenting, and given the low barriers to entry here, we can expect some exciting ideas to come out.   The new announcement regarding Facebook places last week should give the whole situation a new twist as well – adding where to the mix.

I’ve compiled a list of Canadian retailers with links to their respective social media sites.  The brands that seem to be doing the most so far are the ones that have a community of interest already, such as Holt Renfrew, Best Buy, lululemon and Chapters Indigo.  The thing I find so interesting is that consumers essentially have to seek these sites out.  Few of them are staring you in the face when you are on the web or looking at billboards, and yet some of them have incredible numbers of followers or fans.  175,000 people ‘like’ lululemon on Facebook as of August 20, 2010.  132,000 ‘like’ Aldo.  These are people who want to be publicly affiliated with a brand.  What an incredible opportunity for any business!

Have a look at what’s going on and weigh in on your opinion.  Who is doing well?  What’s working?  Let me know if you would like to see other retailers or platforms added to the list.  I plan on posting this chart along with more details on followers as a permanent page, though we can’t really rely on that as a measure of value added.   Let me know your thoughts on what you would like to see on a permanent page!

You can also see a presentation I put together including some recent examples of social media usage by retailers here.

  Facebook Twitter Flickr Youtube
Aldo [] []   []
Ardene []     []
Banana Republic Canada [] []    
Beer Store   []    
Best Buy Canada [] [] [] []
Blockbuster Canada [] []    
Body Shop Canada [] []    
Bouclair   [] [] []
Browns Shoes   []    
Chapters Indigo [] [] [] []
Cineplex [] []    
Empire Theatres [] []    
Fido Mobile   []    
Gamestop Canada [] []    
Gap Canada   []    
H&M Canada [] []    
HMV Canada [] []    
Holt Renfrew [] []   []
Home Depot Canada   []    
Home Hardware   []    
Home Sense [] []    
IGA Quebec   []    
iTunes Canada [] []    
Jean Machine [] []   []
La Senza [] []    
L’Occitane Canada   []    
lululemon [] [] [] []
Mastermind Toys [] []   []
McDonalds [] []   []
Mountain Equipment Coop [] [] [] []
Old Navy Canada [] []    
Planet Organic [] []   []
President’s Choice / Loblaw [] []   []
Rona [] []    
Roots Canada [] [] [] []
RWandCO [] []   []
Sears Canada [] []   []
Sobeys [] [] [] []
Toys R Us Canada [] []    
urban fare [] []    
West 49 [] []   []
Whole Foods Oakville [] [] [] []
Zellers   []    
zip.ca [] []    

Note: For some context on followers, see my list of twitter accounts with followers here.

Update:  Permanent page with ongoing updates is available.

2010.28 | Maker Becomes Retailer – DODOcase Study

I’ve found myself buying things directly from the manufacturer from time to time instead of going to a retail store for the purchase.  Having heard this trend highlighted at the Store 2010 conference in Toronto, I reverse engineered my own purchase process to understand how technology has changed the shopping process in favour of smaller players with niche products.

Before I received my pre-ordered iPad, I knew that I needed a case.  After a quick browse online, I had found that there were approximately a kazillion cases.  So how to decide?  I have gone through at least 3 cases on my iPhone, and it took experience to find one that worked in that case, and I’m still not blown away with what I have.

I tried hunting through Twitter – overwhelming amounts of data and nothing I want.  A few days later I came across a potential in one of my favourite blogs – uncrate.   It showed a case that looked like a moleskine notebook – the DODOcase.

I clicked through the link indicating where the trusty uncrate team found it.  On that page was a video review by San Francisco based blogger Kevin Rose who highlighted the benefits of the case (which is handcrafted in San Francisco) and why he liked it.  I searched twitter and googled the DODOcase to see what others were saying, and I didn’t see any red flags.  I checked out the DODOcase website – all looked good there.  They use Paypal – not unusual for a small enterprise like this, and they will ship to Canada.  It indicated a 4-6 week timeline which is a bit long – but it is handcrafted and since it’s precisely what I was looking for, I’m willing to wait.  So I placed an order on May 30.

Over the following weeks, I regularly visited the DODOcase Facebook page, which has all sorts of information, including videos of how they make the product.  They also constantly updated the dates for shipments on the page.  They regularly indicate what days’ orders were being shipped that week.  It’s also possible to peruse the page and see where customers have made complaints.  I’m happy to say that the DODOcase team appear to make every effort to respond and make suggestions on resolutions to customer issues.

On June 27, DODOcase cashed my Paypal payment, and I recieved an email notification of shipment on Thursday July 8.   I expect the shipment in a few days, and am looking forward to having the case I wanted.

So what does this all mean?  It has become possible to build a company from the ground up, have access to an international market who can find you purely through word of mouth, and maintain a relationship with many current and prospective customers via tools that are freely available online at no cost.    If someone has a great idea, the time to market is greatly reduced and intermediaries between the producer and the customers are removed.   You can even get micro-celebrities to give a no cost shout out.

Who knows where this goes in the larger scheme of things, but it certainly means that retailers will need to think out their value to consumers and manufacturers very carefully as there are more and more options for manufacturers to go to market.    DODOcase only started their business on April 1, 2010 and have built a viable business with back orders.  They kept it simple, and seem to be doing well without many bells and whistles.

For more information on this shift towards these social media tools and how they can be used to build a business, be sure to read Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel.

Update – July 28 – Got my DODOcase on my return from vacation and love it.  Martin was kind enough to point out to me that DODOcase has deservedly won the Shopify Build-a-Business award !

2010.23 | Store 2010 and Retail Technology

I attended Store 2010 this past week here in Toronto, and was fortunate to hear some engaging speakers.   While I can’t possibly do justice to all of the points covered in the discussions which were just loaded with statistics and information, here are a few highlights and links to sites of interest from a retail technology perspective:

Daniel W. O’Connor of RetailNet – 2015: Next Generation Retailing

Chris O’Neill of Google – Google’s Big Bets in a New Retail Landscape

  • 20% of queries are local – opportunity for retailers to capitalize – Google’s Nearmenow makes it even easier for consumers to find what they are looking for.
  • Search is getting even easier on a mobile platform, as the need to type is removed, as Google Goggles allows for search based on an image from a mobile phone.
  • 87% of consumers research retail purchases online, while only 4% complete the purchase online

Mitch Joel of Twist Image – Social Commerce and Emerging Trends

  • 81% of shoppers read reviews – 1 negative review converts more people than every review being positive – people know what idiots are like
  • Comfort with channel drives commerce – Best Buy allows purchases within Facebook via Best Buy Shop and Share
  • Haul Videos are an example of how consumers are changing the dynamic
  • One day, one deal – Woot uses extreme simplicity, selling one product for one day only.
  • People discuss what they bought on Blippy, connect credit card, and tweets purchases.

There were far too many great examples of retail technology innovation to cover them all, but this gives a flavour. 

To get a first hand idea of what’s going on here in Canada with respect to social media, consider: Canadian Retailers on Twitter and Canadian Restaurants on Twitter.

2010.21 | Vancouver Retail | Foursquare Offers | Mobile Parking Payment

This week I was travelling in the greater Vancouver area to visit some clients, and came across some interesting solutions I had not experienced closer to home.

While making a daily pilgramage to Starbucks, I checked into Foursquare and found a little yellow indicator showing that there were offers near my current location.  It turned out that Starbucks has tied their new Frappacino campaign to Foursquare.  If you happen to be the mayor of your local Starbucks, you recieve $1 off any new Frappuccino beverage.  It’s uncertain if this sort of campaign will drive a great deal of traffic, but it’s an interesting idea, and it certainly can’t be costing them much.  It’s also a nice way to reward loyalty.  [Update: I went to Starbucks at home this weekend where I am the mayor, the offer says congratulations for unlocking the offer and it’s shown in colour]

The parking meter situation also presented a solution that was new to me.  One of the problems I encounter periodically is the older cash only situation.  From time to time there is a parking lot that does not accept debit or credit, and I personally complete most transactions in that manner, as I don’t carry cash.  This turns into an inconvenience I would rather avoid.  While in Toronto we have plenty of meters that leverage a ticket station, and I know that there have been experiments with contactless payment, Vancouver had a relatively low tech way of getting the payment completed.   Parkers call a number and enter the meter number and their account connected to their license plate is charged.  I’m sure there are lots of solutions like this out there, I know I’ve seen it in some parking lots, for example, but I’d never seen city meters numbered before.  It certainly made it easier for me to make my meeting on time and helped me avoid a ticket.  Not jingling while you walk was just a bonus!

2010.18 | Canadian Retailers Using Social Media

I’ve been on the lookout for how retailers in Canada are using social media and mobile solutions to interact with their customers.   I was pleasantly surprised at the creativity and innovation of some of the organizations.    My observations are purely observational at this point, and based on what goes on in the Greater Toronto Area, but here are a number of uses of social media that have caught my eye recently:

Integrating Social Media and Digital Signage – Holt Renfrew has a limited time ability to tweet your #holtsbeauty tip on to their in-store digital signage in Toronto.   A free way to share information among HR customers, and get ones’ name in lights as it were.

Highlighting Social Media On-Site and Following their Customers Online  – Jack Astor’s are encouraging their customers to join their Facebook page when they bring the check.  They also started following me on Twitter when I became mayor of one of their locations on Foursquare, so they are paying attention.   That’s the kind of two way interaction that is novel to people and shoes a dedication to customers who are loyal enough to visit their restaurants and publish it online.

SMS Coupons – Payless Shoe Source Canada is offering a limited time SMS coupon for 20% off next purchase (text 77777 with Payless).  There is a very quick response with the coupon.  Kudos to Payless for highlighting that you have given them your number for messages and providing a very quick opt out, which worked flawlessly.  It’s a novel opportunity to use a coupon without paper, and the instant gratification of the text is satisfying as well.

Youtube Channels – Mastermind Toys has great coverage across many social media sites; particularly their Youtube channel where they show videos of their staff discussing products for sale in stores. This is a great way to bring the store experience into the online world.

Beyond these individual businesses and their ideas, I’m impressed at the increase in Twitter Feeds in Canada over the past couple of years.  Many consumer facing brands working in Canada have active Twitter feeds.   Here are the more active accounts that are either Canadian Based or have a Canada specific Twitter Feed along with their Follower counts as of May 3, 2010:

Canadian Retailer Twitter Feeds – May 3, 2010

Retailer Followers Retailer Followers
Addition Elle 175 Nutrition House 301
Aldo Shoes 1,810 Pet Valu 816
Bath & Body Works Canada 164 PizzaPizza 757
Best Buy Canada Deals 5,398 Planet Organic 1,343
Birks Jewellers 840 President’s Choice (Loblaw) 343
Browns Shoes 753 Purdy’s Chocolates 426
ChaptersIndigo 3,064 Roots Canada 2,716
Cineplex 224 RW & Co 443
Dairy Queen 77 Sears Canada 2,901
Empire Theatres 3,284 Shoppers Drug Mart 923
Fido Mobile 726 Subway Ontario 216
Future Shop 6,753 Sunrise Records 60
GameStop Canada 4,217 Suzy Shier 176
HMV 2,832 Taco Bell Canada 1,547
Holt Renfrew 3,011 Teaopia 205
Home Depot Canada 768 The Body Shop Canada 664
IGA Québec 717 Tim Hortons 2,250
Jack Astor’s 255 ToysRUs Canada 42
Jean Machine 398 West 49 293
Koodo 52 Whole Foods 1,159
La Senza 1,782 (My local store – find yours here)
Mastermind Toys 861 Wireless Wave 222
McDonald’s Canada 1,620

While the numbers are not massive, they are interesting to analyze.  Not surprisingly, technology leads the way: Future Shop, Best Buy and GameStop show very high numbers, for example.  Niche grocers Whole Foods and Planet Organic also have very high follower numbers considering that Planet Organic is a relatively small chain, and Whole Foods number represents one store.  Remember that this list is mostly composed of people who have chased down a retailer and added it to a list.  Not many of them highlight their Twitter accounts beyond an email or link on a webpage.   This may very well represent a very dedicated demographic – or at the very least, one that is interested in the stores, the bands and what they are about.

Social media is certainly a growing opportunity for retailers and has grown leaps and bounds over the past couple of years.  It will be interesting to see how it matures in Canada over the coming months and years and what we learn from it.  So far it affords retailers an essentially unheard of opportunity – a virtually free marketing experiment.

Update – July 28 – I’m maintaining a list of Canadian Retailers on and Canadian Restaurants Twitter.  Let me know if I’m missing any!

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