Why You Should Involve Your PR Agency in Content Development

Trust Your PR Agency with Content Development

The Ketner crew is currently hiring two interns, which got me thinking about my career start. With a PR degree in hand and internships under my belt, I assumed I’d join an agency. I pictured spending my days writing press releases and pitching the media. Instead, I landed a role with an in-house marketing team for an engineering firm. But through this, I learned just how fluid the fields of marketing and public relations really are. Or at least should be.

That’s not to say there isn’t a clear delineation between the two. Public relations is traditionally about managing communications between a company and the media, stakeholders or the public. Marketing activities are usually tied to achieving revenue by generating leads through email campaigns, gated landing pages, paid media, and so on.

Ultimately, content is the link between the two. So if you’re asking yourself whether you should you involve your PR agency in content development, I think the answer is yes!

In my past experience, and especially now working in an agency setting, I’ve seen the power of combining PR and marketing forces. Here are a couple of benefits of sharing the content load with your PR agency, followed by an example of Keter Group content in action.

Seamless knowledge sharing through blogs and byline articles

Just as our retail tech clients advocate for unified processes through their holistic solutions, I believe marketing and PR need to shake off the siloed ways of thinking. Share your marketing plans and big-picture goals with PR, no doubt. Breaking down barriers between teams encourages visibility and knowledge sharing. Then go a step further to bring PR in to help with content development in support of that plan.

One example is the corporate blog, where internal experts can comment on interesting industry trends, product capabilities, and more. By having a PR agency collaborate on these posts, they get more direct exposure to a variety of stakeholders outside the marketing department and a more complete understanding of your business.

This gives them the opportunity to really nail the brand voice and messaging as they pitch. Plus, having a lively blog makes it easy to source byline content for media pitching.

While not promotional in nature, byline articles are one way to position company executives as thought leaders in the industry, sharing trends or research and an individual’s unique perspective. Ketner Group pitches and places these 600- to 850-word articles in a variety of trade publications. It’s certainly easier to do so when we’ve had a hand in writing the content in the first place, especially if it’s just repurposing a blog.

A deeper understanding of a given topic with long-form content

Moving beyond bylines, PR-agency-developed content can include e-books, white papers, buyer’s guides, viewpoint papers. This is all content you can leverage through inbound or outbound marketing activities to move prospects through the sales funnel.

Your PR agency should feel like an extension of your marketing team. When you task them with longer-form content projects such as these, you invite them into a much deeper understanding of your solution, service or thought leadership perspective, as if they were in-house all along.

When I’m writing 1,500 to 2,500 words on a topic, my comprehension of that subject has to be exact. Taking on these projects naturally increases the amount of time I spend getting into the weeds. Yes, these projects are more time-intensive. But the conversations, from kickoff calls through the review process, further enrich client relationships and overall mastery of a topic.

The momentum to get in front of your target audience

Take the work we’ve done with our client Symphony RetailAI as an example. Late last year we kicked off a plan to develop a number of viewpoint papers and corresponding buyer’s guides. The viewpoint paper would be a “top of funnel” piece, educating the reader on a topic. A buyer’s guide would then serve as a follow-up, providing a checklist for selecting the right vendor – positioning Symphony RetailAI as the only logical fit.

We developed a viewpoint paper on customer insights and data proficiency in tandem with a buyer’s guide, pointing to their AI-powered personal decision coach, CINDE, as the go-to solution.

Symphony RetailAI, Rule of 17

Seeing content come to life is really exciting. I know Symphony RetailAI enjoys the momentum content has brought to its marketing execution. The Rule of 17 paper received double the target market downloads, compared to last year’s category management campaign. Symphony RetailAI further increased the reach of this whitepaper through sponsored syndication with Progressive Grocer.

Before commissioning your PR agency to take on long-form content projects, map out a larger content strategy. My colleague Aidan wrote a blog that walks you through defining unique content needs. It’s a helpful way to assess where your PR agency can jump in to help.

I’m All Ears: A Podcast Beginner’s Guide

On any given day of the week, whether commuting to work, folding laundry or walking the dog, chances are I’m also listening to a podcast. And I’m not alone – eMarketer estimates that in 2019, 76.4 million people in the U.S. will listen to podcasts. According to that same research, close to one-third of weekly podcast listeners listen to six or more podcasts each week. Hey, that’s me!

I can’t remember exactly what my first podcast series was – maybe Serial? But I’ve been hooked ever since. It may have begun with true crime, but the shows I subscribe to have become more diverse over the years. Topics now range from news and business to faith, parenting, and reality television commentary (which may or may not be related to “The Bachelor” franchise).

There’s so much great content out there, and only a limited amount of time in my day to listen, but I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorites. If you don’t have a regular rotation of shows in your podcast feed, give any one of these a listen.

A Few Of The Podcasts In My Earbuds

Y’all Need This Podcast

  • “The podcast about Texas and all the people and things that make it so darn…Texan.”
  • Hosted by Texas Humor‘s (and my real-life friend) Jay B Sauceda, Y’all Need This Podcast dives into really important topics, such as Whataburger vs. In-N-Out, who has the worst traffic in Texas, Texan stereotypes, and commonly mispronounced “Texan” words. Though we’ve expanded outside of the Lonestar State this year, Texas is in our blood here at Ketner Group – our standing “(Breakfast) Taco Tuesday” is proof.

The Daily

  • “This is how the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.”
  • Produced (you guessed it) daily, this podcast is one that I cherry-pick episodes to listen to, given the topic. I enjoy the style of reporting and how the interviews and sound bites bring the headlines to life, adding more context and background than what a news article could convey.

Pantsuit Politics

  • “A political podcast hosted by women from both sides of the aisle who refuse to see each other as the enemy.”
  • Another one of Pantsuit Politics’ taglines is “the home of grace-filled political conversations.” Listening twice a week has helped me to process the news with more nuance and compassion – these girls are my go-to voices for understanding a variety of perspectives, especially in a political climate that feels divisive. I look forward to having these “friends” in my ears for the upcoming 2020 election, too.

And all the retail podcasts, too!

“Should I Do A Podcast?”

Podcasting might be a worthwhile marketing channel for your business, but your level of involvement is really a judgment call. Should you start a new podcast? If not, will you seek opportunities to be a guest on other relevant shows? Or, does it make more sense for you to advertise on a podcast that caters to an audience of your potential customers?

Start A Podcast From Scratch

Producing a podcast on a regular cadence is a lot of work. You have to invest in the right recording equipment and editing software to ensure sound quality. The time you spend securing guests, prepping for interviews, and then recording, editing and promoting your podcast episodes adds up to time not spent on other marketing priorities. It might spread you too thin, or require you to hire someone to manage it.

Before you jump head-first into starting a podcast, I’d also recommend scanning the horizon for what’s already out there. Are a number of shows already covering the topics and perspectives you would? What is unique about your podcast that would make it stand out? Consider your niche and then move forward (or not).

Advertise On An Existing Podcast

I can’t speak personally to the ROI of businesses advertising on podcasts. But as a listener to many podcasts, I can tell you that they work for me as a consumer. My birthday is right around the corner, and because I can’t seem to get away from the podcast advertisements for them, Rothy’s shoes are at the top of my wishlist. I know that may seem like a trivial example when what your B2B business is offering costs quite a bit more.

However, my perspective is this: podcast listeners trust podcast hosts to be particular about who gets to advertise with them, and customers are likely to respond to relevant, high-value products and services. In fact, 54% of podcast listeners are more likely to consider buying an advertised product. For more reading on the topic, take a look at Marketing Dive‘s “Is podcast advertising effective?”

Lisa Gold, California Closets, with Total Retail‘s Joe Keenan at NRF 2019

Pursue Opportunities To Be A Podcast Guest

When it comes to participating in podcasts as a guest, I say go for it – but only if it feels right to you. Before approaching a seemingly relevant show, listen to a number of episodes and picture yourself or a company executive as the guest being interviewed. If it feels like a stretch, it probably is. Also, podcasts want to tell interesting and insightful human stories, so they’re not going to give you a platform just to talk about how great your product or service is. Reel in the host with a client success story, as we did with our client Elo when Total Retail Talks interviewed their customer California Closets. Or position your spokesperson to talk to a larger industry trend.

There’s real momentum behind the podcasting movement, and audio content as a marketing tool is a trend we’ll continue to explore on behalf of our clients. Yesterday, Modern Retail also wrote a story about retail brands turning to podcasting, if you want to check it out.

If you’re a podcast listener, we’d love to hear about your favorites! And if you’re not, consider this your invitation to start listening.

4 Weddings and a Bridal Shower: A Look at How the Wedding Registry Has Changed

4 Weddings and a Shower: A Look at the Wedding Registry

It’s been a month since our very own Stacy became a Mrs. As all good coworkers do, we threw her a surprise shower before the big day. Scanning her wedding registry to pick out the best gift got me thinking. Four women from the Ketner crew in Austin have now tied the knot. So, as the retail industry has evolved, how have our registry experiences differed?

From Catherine’s nuptials in 2003 to the Tung wedding over Memorial Day weekend, a number of things have changed.

Quick facts:

  • Wedding years represented – 2003, 2012, 2015, 2019 
  • Retailers represented for wedding registries – Target, Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate and Barrel, Pier 1
  • What were the biggest differences? A shift away from formal wedding china to post-wedding travel funds. 
  • And where did we find common ground? Come on, who doesn’t like getting gifts?

Going to the Chapel…and the Store…and Online

The argument in the industry is that despite the rise of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retail isn’t dead. That trend can be seen in our wedding registry experiences too. Almost 17 years ago, Catherine and her husband did their registering in-store. This meant they didn’t have online access to make changes or sneak peeks to see what was purchased. Fast forward to my wedding in 2012, and Stacy’s this year. You’ll see that the store still has an important role. We enjoyed going in-person to kick off the act of registering, but found the digital experience helpful for reading product reviews and managing our lists.

In the movies, you’ll see couples buzzing excitedly through the store, using a barcode scanner to add to their wishlist. Stacy and her now-husband Alvin found that aspect of registering fun! My husband Thomas and I enjoyed the private event Crate and Barrel hosted (and still offers today). Engaged couples are allowed into the store early Sunday mornings for undistracted registering. Plus, there’s wedding vendor promos and free samples. Cake before lunch? Yes, please!

Love and Marriage, But Don’t Forget the Honeymoon!

Mariana and her husband Richie shared a home before their big day, which influenced their decision for how and where to register. Their two-bedroom apartment was pretty cozy, so they signed up for a Honeyfund account instead of a traditional wedding registry. What they wanted more than bedding or kitchen gadgets was to share experiences together. Through Honeyfund, family and friends could gift the travel-loving Fischbachs a surf lesson or a snorkeling excursion for their Hawaiian honeymoon. Although Mariana did say they received several Home Depot gift cards, which were spent pretty quick!

While Stacy and I share some similarities in our registry experience, Mariana and Catherine also have some parallels. Where they overlap is specific to their housing’s influence on wedding gift requests. While the Fishbachs opted for experiences over “things” because they were saving for a down payment, the Seeds were building a home. For this reason, Catherine needed practical things like end tables and a coffee table for their living room. She was also excited to pick out China settings. While she doesn’t use it often now, Catherine loves having something she will pass down to her kids. 

I Do…Love Wedding Gifts

Wedding season is underway, and we’re not the only ones contemplating the evolution of registries. Just last week, Retail Dive reflected on the history of the traditional registry, and Honeyfund’s founder gives her perspective there also. Here’s a stat we found interesting. Despite emerging trends around experiential requests and cash gifts, The Knot found that 97% of couples this year say they registered for retail products. 

Since we obsess over retail data for clients during the week, it’s fun when we get to discuss the overlap into our lives as consumers. Our conclusion is that retailers who will find relevance with the brides and grooms of tomorrow will be the ones that mirror broader retail trends. These retailers will provide options for both the thrill of in-store memory making, plus convenience and practicality too. Retailers should see wedding registries as a way to build brand loyalty, as couples associate a retailer with a joyful time in their lives.

Consider the Cost: Why Free Shipping Is a Shared Expense

Free shipping is basically expected nowadays. When shopping online, you may be caught off guard if you see a shipping charge added at checkout. At that point, you have a couple of options: decide if the product is worth paying $5-10 extra to have shipped; search online at another retailer who does offer free shipping; or, take advantage of in-store pickup if there’s inventory near you.

Free shipping is an incredibly powerful tool to motivate a purchase, but it isn’t really all that ‘free’ – it’s just a matter of who covers the cost. And in a cultural climate more concerned with protecting the environment, retailers and shoppers aren’t the only ones sharing the burden.

The Sliding Scale of Free Shipping

I mentioned the motivating power of free shipping and the role it plays in the buying journey. If I know a retailer offers it, I’m more likely to spend my money there, and that translates to my increasing loyalty. The way I see it, free shipping is a bit of a sliding scale, where the retailer or the shopper covers a smaller or larger portion of shipping expenses, depending on the scenario. The company may eat the cost at one time to win consumer affinity, but through devoted shopping dollars, the consumer helps to lessen the blow.

What immediately comes to mind as an example is my identity as a Target REDcard holder. I don’t have to pay for unlimited, free two-day shipping, as one does with the membership cost for Amazon Prime, but Target sure does get a chunk of my budget each month. Big picture: I see it as a great deal. The retailer is rewarded with my loyalty, and in the end, we’re both pretty pleased.

Because of my work with Ketner Group client OrderDynamics, I watch the industry closely for trends related to order fulfillment and shipping. Our friends at OrderDynamics put out a study this year called Omni-2000, in which they found that 75.7% of retailers with an eCommerce site provide free shipping with a minimum purchase. In cases like this, the retailer foots the bill to deliver your goods. However, the cost to you as a consumer is often spending more than you intended. And because you’re increasing the size of your order, the added sale helps to reduce the hit the retailer will take for covering shipping costs.

It all costs someone something – it’s just a matter of how you look at it.

A Greener Future for Free-Shipping Shopping Habits

Financial costs aside, retail fulfillment has become increasingly complex, and the associated logistics have ramifications for the environment as well. Turning orders around more quickly means more trucks are on the road. In the name of timely and convenient delivery, those trips aren’t optimized to fit the most boxes in one vehicle at a time. Plus, there’s the additional waste associated with cardboard boxes and packing materials.

With Earth Day right around the corner, this is an interesting conversation to have in the industry. I found this short five-minute video extremely insightful, discussing the environmental cost of two-day shipping, if you’re interested!

I believe because of present discussions around global warming and carbon emissions, we’ll start to see retailers become more vocal about their proactivity to reduce their global impact, while still coming through on omnichannel convenience. And if it’s an important issue in the heart of its customers, retailers ought to gain even more loyalty in the process.

I’m also curious to watch for the emergence of other fulfillment channels as retailers work on efficiencies, cost savings and waste reduction efforts. Will there be wider availability of BOPIS, BORIS and ROPIS offerings, perhaps? Incentives besides free shipping to nudge conscious consumers to select a “greener” option? Driverless cars and drones? We’ll have to wait and see.

B2B Social Media

Back 2 Basics with B2B Social Media

B2B marketing is intricate and complex. Your company’s product or service evolves as the end-user’s needs change. The messaging to support it can also be in a constant state of optimization. You launch marketing campaigns, waiting to see what resonates. And managing the sales funnel, with any given lead at a different consideration or decision stage than the next person, can be overwhelming.

The nuances of a stellar marketing strategy make your day-to-day a challenge – hopefully, a fun one. Figuring out where social media fits into the mix can be an exciting endeavor, too. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way in guiding several B2B companies through their social media beginnings.

Prioritize Your Presence Where It Makes the Most Business Sense

The business case for social media will differ depending on your industry and target audience, but don’t “do” social media just to check a box. Neither should you dive into every channel with the same level of care and intention. While there are benefits to being present on most social channels, allocate the majority of your time to the one that aligns with business goals. Decide which channel(s) will be “table stakes” – where you maintain a basic presence for the sake of brand awareness. Then determine which you’ll focus on for a real contribution to your bottom line.

In many B2B cases, this translates to more of a focus on distributing thought leadership content on LinkedIn or Twitter, and not so much tinkering with Instagram. If you have ambitious sales goals for the coming year, it may make sense to spend less time curating pretty pictures and more time writing long-form content to distribute to prospective decision makers. But, if imagery meets your B2B needs, then by all means, do it beautifully. Just tie your efforts to engagement opportunities and measurable outcomes – it will help you see where your time is best spent, and keep you moving in the right direction.

Strategize Your Content Based on the Audience

While hugely important, leads shouldn’t be the only goal of engaging on social media. I previously mentioned brand awareness. Think, when someone reads or hears about your company, where is the first place they’ll go to find out more? A sales lead may first to go the website and then navigate their way to LinkedIn, ‘following’ your company’s profile for the latest updates. If it’s a potential new hire, they may check Instagram to get a feel for company culture or your community involvement. Twitter users often use their feeds as a daily brief on industry news. What quick content will you offer them there? Will your tweets point to a landing page on your website, a blog post, or perhaps back to your LinkedIn content? The possibilities really are endless, but you should always come back to asking  yourself “what makes the most sense for this audience?”

One thing to note in distributing thought leadership content through social media: find a balance between free and gated content. Securing a white paper behind a download form can bring you qualified marketing leads, but it might also be a hard-stop for those not ready to be sold to yet. So, think of the value you can provide someone before they’re ready to engage with you directly. Then, delight them with helpful content, no strings attached.

Connect Your Social Media to Traditional B2B Tactics

While sometimes you must “think outside the box” for creative content ideas, many quick-win social strategies are right under your nose, including the following best practices:

  • What are you already doing in your marketing that can be further amplified on social media? Think of the tradeshows and networking events you’ll attend this year. What content should you post in the days leading up to the occasion? Is there an event hashtag you can explore, participating in social chatter ahead of time or on-location?
  • Equip your people to magnify the brand on social. After all, we’re more likely to make a purchase decision based off recommendations from people we have common ground with or know personally. If employees organically share your company’s content, adding their own perspective,  those who follow them will trust the content that much more. An easy way to empower employee engagement is sending an FYI email ahead of something being published. Provide ready-to-go language for them to copy and paste. You’re doing some of the work for them, further encouraging them to participate online.

Feeling inspired? I hope so! All of these tips are well and good, but knowing where to begin can be daunting, which is why we’ve also put together a how-to on starting your social media program. Or if you’re interested in exploring the possibilities of paid social, dig into our guide on successful LinkedIn marketing. Social media is just one piece of your overall B2B marketing strategy. When done right, it will help you make real connections and lead to ongoing client relationships.

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 more than 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.