Same Us, New Look

Notice anything different? If making changes to our online presence was a haircut, we didn’t get just a little trim. We’ve got a whole new ‘do’ around here, one to better represent our capabilities and vision. Ketner Group is excited to (officially) announce the launch of our new logo, adjusted company name, and totally revamped website.

A Word From Our Leaders

“As an agency, we’ve evolved in so many ways over the past few years, and this website is a representation of that. Jeff and I made the decision to change the name from Ketner Group PR + Marketing to Ketner Group Communications, to better represent the services we offer.” – Catherine Seeds, SVP and partner

“It was certainly time for a change, considering our growth over the past few years. Not only have we experienced 40% organic growth over the past year, but our team has grown, too. We expanded from a group of six in 2017 to a group of 11 employees in 2018 to manage our client growth. We’ve also taken on six new clients in 2018, and in 2019, we are opening an office in New York City. We like to say we’re ‘obsessed with exceeding client expectations,’ and I’m confident our new website reflects that part of our company culture.” – Jeff Ketner, president

Take The New Site For A Spin

The website offers a more comprehensive layout that is simple to navigate. Here’s a tour:

 

Flashback (Black) Friday

Working at an agency where I can obsess over retail, I’ve started appreciating the impact it has on my life. I love the industry because as NRF says, “Retail impacts everyone, every day, everywhere,” and it’s true. As I sit down to write this blog, waiting for inspiration to hit, vivid retail memories come to mind.

A Retail “Remember When?”

One of my earliest memories of Black Friday was in seventh grade when a classmate chose an early-morning shopping spree as a “birthday party” of sorts. The day after Thanksgiving, her mom picked up our group of friends in the family van, passing back orange juice and brown-bag breakfasts to enjoy as we headed for the mall. The year was 2002 – “back then,” stores didn’t open until 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. We were among the first people inside when the security gates were lifted. At that age, Black Friday to me wasn’t about Christmas gifts or strategizing my purchases. It was the thrill of the hunt, feeling like a grown-up in the holiday bustle and looking for bargains. I remember buying a pair of trendy sunglasses for less than $2 and thinking, “this is so fun!”

Knowing what I do now about the current retail landscape, I wondered if a little Googling would provide more perspective on that memory of mine. The furthest back I could go was 2004, but it was still a fun window to the past. Try it for yourself… the Black Friday Archive serves up more than 850 ads from the past 15 years. You’ll get a kick out of all the landline phones with Caller ID and portable DVD players, and you can make your own observations on the evolution of Black Friday.

The “Black Friday Creep”

I’m a Target girl through and through, so I started exploring its ad archive first. In 2004, deals started Friday at 6:00 a.m. By 2010, Target opened at 4:00 in the morning, then midnight in 2011, and 9:00 p.m. Thursday in 2012. You already know the rest of the story. In the year 2018, many stores will open before some families have sat down to eat their Thanksgiving meal. When looking at the collection of past ads, it’s easy to see how this trend evolved. Slowly but surely, Black Friday sales crept into middle-of-the-night territory, and then into the Thursday evening hours. And this year, JCPenny made headlines when it announced it would open at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That’s earlier than any other retailer yet.

For the first time ever, forecasts predict Christmas sales in the U.S. to surpass $1 trillion, and this year, the first day of November was very noticeably the kick-off of a big push to shop. Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, and others started special promotions the day after Halloween, all competing for a share of your wallet. In the years to come, we’ll continue to see retailers dazzling us with deals and experiences each of the 54 days between Halloween and Christmas. Whether Black Friday will continue to be an important 24 hours of retail activity remains to be seen.

Smile, Then Shop

Four years after that birthday party, where did I find myself the Friday after Thanksgiving? In “Zone 1” of Bath & Body Works, working my first day as an employee there (side note: probably not the wisest day to start a retail job). That day is no less vivid than my first Black Friday memory. I was stationed at the store’s entrance with shopping bags and a ‘Tester’ bottle of peppermint lotion. Frenzied shoppers breezed right by me, too focused on the center-store deals to pay me any attention. I’ll never forget how frazzled yet energized I felt. This year, I don’t plan to do much in-store shopping, but I’ll leave you with this: if you’re gift hunting in-store this holiday season, be nice to retail workers. Even if it’s just a smile at the nervous high school girl trying her darndest to make your “offline” shopping experience a fun one.

A New Mom’s Take on Amazon

Almost two weeks have passed since Amazon’s most successful Prime Day yet, and between then and now, you’ve likely seen a good deal (no pun intended) of recaps. The purpose of writing this blog is not to provide another analysis of the retail event, but rather to share my Amazon perspective as a new mom.

But before I jump in, here are some highlights from Prime Day:

  • A record-setting 100 million products were sold for an estimated $4.2 billion. (Chain Store Age)
  • Early website difficulties cost the retailer an estimated $72 million in potential sales. (Internet Retailer)
  • Retail Leader breaks down all the numbers you could ever hope to know about Amazon Prime Day here.
  • I enjoyed Retail Dive’s discussion on their podcast, “Conversational Commerce.” Have a listen: Amazon Prime Day cues up the holidays.

Our Amazon spending analysis 

Did you know you can download a report of your complete Amazon spending history? Caution: it may be eye-opening! I spotted the tip in an article and was curious to know just how much money we’ve spent over the years.

My husband and I jumped on the Prime bandwagon early in our marriage, lured by the free shipping. In 2015, we placed a mere 13 orders from Amazon – probably just breaking “even” if you compare the average cost of shipping against the annual membership price. By the next year, that number jumped to 76, as we used e-commerce more and more to fulfill our personal and household needs.

Drumroll please… in 2017, my husband and I spent more than $3,500 on Amazon. Seeing a dollar amount that included a comma was a bit shocking, but I felt more at ease when I evaluated the nature of these purchases: we weren’t just buying impulsively when we saw a good deal. The 124 orders made last year for the Reeds will tell you a lot about our stage of life. In addition to pantry staples, toiletries, and dog food, we also bought: everything to “complete” our Amazon baby registry; gifts for Christmas and birthdays; and a significant amount of diapers and wipes.

Another status check

We’re more than halfway through 2018, and the Reed family is on track to surpass the number of orders placed on Amazon last year – 79 so far! And I’ll tell you what – not much has changed.

  • After my maternity leave, I splurged for a robot vacuum cleaner to make keeping up with chores easier on this working mama.
  • As our daughter became more mobile, our shopping cart was full of baby gates to try and items to “baby proof” our home.
  • When we threw our daughter’s first birthday party last month, I turned to Amazon for everything from her outfit to balloons.
  • What’s that? My daughter needs a Disney-themed outfit for a dress-up day at daycare? Thanks, Amazon! And clothes for me too, please. I don’t have time to shop in-store, and Amazon returns are just so dang easy.

I would be lying if I said our Amazon purchasing habits aren’t instinctual. It’s a habit now – we have a need, and we turn to Amazon first. We even purchased Dash Buttons for laundry detergent and dog treats. Amazon deliveries grace our doorstep weekly. We ‘Prime Now’ – is that a verb? – groceries when we’re in a pinch. We’ve taken advantage of the expanded streaming benefits, most recently binging “Downton Abbey” on Prime Video. As our family grows, and the demands on our time do too, I can’t imagine our Amazon activity slowing down.

I’m in good company

After my deep dive into the spreadsheet of our spending, I was curious to know how my Amazon lifestyle compared to friends. So, I created a simple Survey Monkey questionnaire, shared the link via Facebook, and watched the responses roll in…

“I tend to purchase on Amazon out of convenience, even if an item is more expensive.”

“I set up Amazon subscriptions for things I want to or tend to forget about – toothbrushes, air vent filters… I know when they are delivered, it’s time for me to change them out.”

“I use Amazon even more now that they have same-day, one-day and Prime Now shipping speeds.”

“I buy as much as I can online to save myself from making trips to the store.” 

“Amazon makes my life easier!”

Other insights:

  • More than 50 friends participated, and all but two said that the price increase ($99/year to $119) would not affect their decision to renew their Prime Membership. Yes, it was a large jump, percentage-wise, but the pros of “being Prime” still outweighed the cons.
  • The amount of money my friends spent in 2017 varied greatly, ranging from $400 to as much as $8,000.
  • Most friends were on-track in 2018 to spend the same as they did last year or more.

As much as I love a good bargain… 

You may be thinking, “So Amanda, what did you buy on Prime Day?” And the answer, my friends? Coincidentally, not a thing. I love Amazon as much as my friends do, apparently, but I’m more excited about the day-to-day convenience and experience than I am about a 36-hour promotional event.

An Austinite’s Take on the New Amazon Books Store

I’m a big book nerd. When I was younger, I told my parents I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. Nowadays on any given trip to Target, I’ll take a stroll through the book section and get scan-happy with the Goodreads app, adding to my growing “Want to Read” list. So, it should come as no surprise that on a recent date night out, I told my husband we couldn’t leave The Domain before checking out Austin’s new Amazon Books store.

The Austin location, which opened on March 6, is the first in Texas and 14th in the U.S. Amazon describes the Books store as “a physical extension of Amazon.com… integrating the benefits of offline and online shopping to help you find books and devices you’ll love.” Mariana Garavaglia, head of stores and retail operations for Amazon Books, calls it “a store without walls.”

The store was buzzing on a Friday night, but there were plenty of Amazon team members on hand to acclimate us to the shopping experience. Amazon has a unique yet simple in-store pricing approach: Amazon Prime members get the same price they’d get on Amazon.com. Others pay the list price. And while there are price scanners throughout the store, employees encouraged us to check-in through the provided QR code and use our phones to look up prices. As I explored the store and discovered new titles, I enjoyed being able to easily add titles to Amazon wish lists for future purchases – hey, even book nerds need to stick to a budget.

There are 3,800 different titles in stock at any given time, and on average, books have a rating of 4.3 or more stars – the placards beneath the books show you the rating and sometimes even an excerpt from a customer review. However, what I liked most is the thoughtful curation and layout of the store. Amazon’s team looks at reviews and ratings, e-book reading behaviors, sales and pre-order information to determine what books to carry and where to place them. Signage will tell you which titles are “Most Wished For,” which are “Page Turners” finished in three days or less on Kindle devices, and which titles “You’ll Love” “If You Liked” another particular read.

Another interesting approach is how most books in the store are displayed facing outward, rather than seeing shelf after shelf of book spines. The consequence of this is that it limits the available shelf space for inventory but is designed to make it easy to “discover titles you weren’t even looking for in the first place.”

In writing this blog, I thought I’d also check out local Yelp reviews to see what others thought of the new shopping experience. There were several five-star, glowing reviews, but here were some unique opinions I saw:

  • One parent was glad that, unlike some book retailers, there weren’t toys kept in stock alongside books. Her child wasn’t distracted or confused about what they were there to buy.
  • Some compared the book selection to that of an airport bookstore, saying they preferred the robust shopping experience across town at Barnes & Noble.
  • Many observed that Amazon Books doesn’t have space to linger and read – no coffee shop, tables and chairs or reading nooks. Probably exactly what Amazon intended, but a notable difference if that’s something you want to do as you explore.
  • Some outspoken Austinites were unimpressed, pledging their loyalty to local favorite Book People.

Lastly, I was curious to know if Amazon has seen an increase in Prime membership registrations as brick-and-mortar locations have opened. If I weren’t a Prime member and learned I could shop in-store and get a better price, I may want to sign up right then to take advantage of the discount. But alas, I couldn’t find any research online about this.

What about you? Have you visited an Amazon Books store, and were you a fan?

Happy reading, book lovers!

Get to Know Our New Senior Account Executive: Amanda Reed

Hi everyone! My name is Amanda Reed and I’m thrilled to join the Ketner Group team as a Senior Account Executive. I am looking forward to getting up-to-speed and contributing to the success of our clients, but first, here’s a bit about me.

The saying goes, “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could,” and that’s certainly true for me. I’ve called Austin home for almost 20 years and I love this city so much, but I spent the first six years of my life in Anchorage, Alaska. My elementary years once I moved to Austin included a lot of curious kids asking, “Were you born in an igloo?” and ever since, my Alaskan beginning has been my go-to fun fact.

I attended Baylor University where I got a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a concentration in marketing, and I honed my skills through internships at Texas Monthly, The Dwyer Group, American Football Coaches Association, and WACOAN magazine. Additionally, I studied abroad one semester in the Netherlands, attending classes at Maastricht University and traveling to 14 countries, which included one month backpacking through Spain, Italy and Greece. That experience gave me an appreciation for other cultures, a love of travel, and a level of courage and independence I hadn’t known previously.

After graduating, I moved back home to Austin to take a job on the marketing team at Bury+Partners, an engineering company later acquired by Stantec. The ultimate highlight for me there was contributing to the corporate rebrand — shifting from Bury+Partners to simply Bury — which included an epic launch party with a choreographed flash mob, in addition to the associated PR roll-out. After Bury, I joined Austin startup and fintech provider Kasasa to support their communications, PR and social media strategies. Kasasa’s mission is to empower community banks and credit unions with the right technology and marketing so that they can compete against the megabanks. It was a really fun mission to rally behind!

A few other facts about yours truly:  

  • When I’m not working, you’ll find me spending time with my husband, our daughter, and our beloved pup, Bruiser, who came to us through Austin Boxer Rescue.
  • We love trying new restaurants, and there is no shortage of those in Austin.
  • As loyal Baylor fans, we have season tickets for football, so many weekends in the Fall are spent in Waco with our closest friends from college, cheering on the Bears.
  • I regularly get comments about my penmanship, and I have made a little side gig out of hand-lettering projects for people to adorn the walls of their home… or to have tattooed on their body. No, really!
  • Another hobby for me is photography, which I get to do on the side with family photos, engagements or newborn sessions.
  • I’m a book nerd, and I even thought as a kid that I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up.
  • I carry a bound, paper planner with me at all times to stay organized, and have a preferred pen of choice — a black Pilot 0.5 G-2.

I knew Ketner was a special group because I’d previously served on the board of PRSA with both Catherine and Adrienne, but getting to know the team through the interview process has gotten me more excited about this being my new work home.