NRF 2017, Here We Come

In most industries, the holidays are a time to disengage from the hustle and bustle of work, plan for 2017 and clean out the junk folders to start the New Year feeling refreshed. But as we all know, quite the opposite is true in retail. And once a new calendar gets pinned to the wall, the heat really starts to turn up as we make final preparations for the biggest conference of our year, NRF’s BIG Show.

This year, the Ketner Group team has been as busy as ever, meticulously preparing, pitching, coordinating and managing all sorts of client announcements and on-site briefings. As the newest member of the KG team and a rookie to the realities of NRF life, I have to admit it’s been impressive watching our team stay (mostly) stress-free, while securing some truly terrific opportunities for publicity next week, without losing sight of client needs in the now.

As our entire office goes wheels up this weekend, heading from sunny and warm Austin, Texas to the hopefully not-so-cold and not-so-gray Big Apple, I expect to feel the same excitement and confidence in our client outcomes as our veterans who have been mastering the NRF process for over ten years.

We look forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces, connecting with new clients and having NRF ’17 mark the start of another great year at Ketner Group, for our clients, and for the retail industry in general. Good luck everyone!

Ketner Group clients at NRF, and where to find them:

 

PRSA Corner: Breaking Through the Noise and Reaching Your Target Audience

ClpsEJ3UYAAqeNFWe recently attended and were the official sponsor of the June PRSA Austin Chapter Luncheon. The luncheon titled, “Media Relations: Insights from the Newsroom,” featured three journalist panelists who discussed how media has evolved over the years, the integration of skills and technology in media relations and how PR professionals can (and should) break through the noise to reach target audiences. Here are some highlights:

Tara Doolittle is the Viewpoints editor for the Austin American-Statesman and is in charge of the editorial pages and online commentary. She began as a rookie reporter in 1997 and has worked with the newspaper’s reporting teams covering education, city hall and lifestyle. As many journalists do, Tara receives over 400 emails a day, which means getting her attention is no easy task. Although she gives first priority to local pitches over others, she tells PR folks to send short pitches, know who you are pitching and focus on the journalist’s interests, and course, always be sensitive to deadlines. Other key take-aways from Tara:

  • For hard news and community engagement pitches, Tara recommends doing research on how other publications (in other areas) report certain trends and how those trends might play out locally. Look for ways to tell the local story. As well, Tara says PR professionals should “think broadly” because the Statesman is not just a print newspaper, but a multimedia content platform.
  • According to Tara, the digital space is the way to go, especially with social media and sharing. She recommends PR professionals think about this when it comes to pitches. Photos and videos are a great way to keep people on the website for longer periods of time – it’s a win-win for everyone!
  • Tara said the biggest struggle she faces as an editor for a daily local newspaper is serving three sets of readers because they all want different things: folks who don’t pay for online content; folks who do pay and read online content; and full subscribers.

Erin Quinn-Kong is the editor-in-chief of Austin Monthly and the editorial director of Austin MonthlyAustin HOME and austinmonthly.com. A Missouri native, she attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism and worked in New York City as an editor at Allure and Us Weekly before moving to Austin in 2008. Compared to the Statesman, Austin Monthly operates with a smaller staff who has to work very hard to keep up with daily and monthly deadlines. It’s a fast-paced environment (with a small staff), which definitely makes it hard for PR professionals to get the attention of the editorial team. Knowing that, Erin says it is critical for PR professionals to know why the story would work in her publication, and know who you’re pitching to and why. Other key take-aways from Erin:

  • Pitches come into play when they make a connection to something that relates to the local area, or that may have appeared “buzz worthy” on social media. That is the sweet spot on pitches!
  • Erin recommends asking them to coffee. As editors, she believes it is part of their job to know the PR people in town. Having the opportunity to be “face to face” with PR professionals is a much better way to connect than an email.
  • Her biggest challenges as the editor of Austin Monthly include creating boundaries between her job and life and the struggle of small budgets and staff combined with high expectations.

 Haley Cihock is Executive Producer for KXAN. With 15 years of experience in broadcast news, she writes, edits and manages a team of producers, anchors, editors and field reporters working on the noon newscasts across two channels. According to Haley, the best stories come from community engagement – listening to the buzz around town, hearing what local citizens are talking about – and then figuring out how to cover the story. She believes that Austin has an engaged audience and people in the city really want to talk. At KXAN, social media is a huge tool for listening for potential stories. Other key take-aways from Haley:

  • Make no mistake, there is limited “on air” time, so Haley recommends that PR professionals pass story ideas and news to the digital side to get more bang for the buck. Using multichannel media is a great way to disperse the message, and it is how stories evolve, especially when it is resonating with people. Haley also says the evolution of media means that things are moving faster and faster, things get lost, so PR folks should try more than one platform to tell their story.
  • As an on-air journalist, Haley has to think of the bigger picture, but often times receives “micro” pitches from PR professionals. Pitches have to be bigger than just one thing. It is important to think beyond your client or your one story – try to make connections that could turn into bigger feature stories.
  • Her biggest challenges as an on-air journalist is always trying to be the first with the story, but to also to get the story right and do it better than anyone else. Erin believes that, for TV journalists, the challenges haven’t changed much, but the ways of approaching them are changing. Her two biggest pieces of advice is to not send video to the newsroom (they have to shoot their own) and to not send gifts to on-air journalists.

Retail’s BIG Show: #NRF16 Client Recap, Part Two

If there is any indication that this year’s NRF show was the most exciting yet, it’s that we need two whole blog posts to recap just how great it was. Our clients were among the best and brightest out on that show floor, demonstrating cutting-edge retail technology and hosting thought-provoking BIG !dea sessions. They were invaluable additions to the educational atmosphere of one of the industry’s longest-running events, but don’t just take our word for it, see for yourself:

Photo courtesy of Kathleen See
Photo courtesy of Kathleen See

Predictix

Continuing to stay “one step ahead of the competition,” as observed in PYMNTS, Predictix announced during the show that it has entered a strategic partnership with Infor to resell Predictix applications to its customers as a part of Infor CloudSuite Retail. This announcement, along with Predictix’s impressive 40% YOY SaaS growth, generated buzz for the predictive analytics company. Adding to the excitement, Aaron Surasky, Senior Director, Assortment Planning and Analysis for The Home Depot, led an NRF BIG !deas session where he discussed how retailers are working with Predictix to create differentiated, locally relevant assortments while operating multiple channels and stores to an audience of more than 200.

Check out some additional awesome coverage of Predictix from the show by Apparel, Retail TouchPoints, B2Becommerceworld and Just-Style.

Shopatron

The week was an exciting one for Shopatron as well, which announced that “it is now part of a unified omnichannel commerce solutions company called Kibo,” by merging with MarketLive and Fiverun according to RIS News . In a MultiChannel Merchant recap of the companies’ merge, Shopatron founder Ed Stevens (now COO of Kibo) and MarketLive founder Ken Burke “talk about how the responsive redesign and the enhanced back-end capabilities helped Modell’s {Sporting Goods] become an omnichannel success story this holiday season.”

Starmount

In the world of omnichannel, just-style was impressed with Starmount’s newly-unveiled Store Inventory application, which helps retailers maintain more accurate store inventory and allows store associates “to engage customers and process transactions.” Starmount used its time at NRF to demonstrate how this addition to its Customer Engagement Suite is an asset to retailers.

Thoughtworks

Included as a “Top 10 Takeaway” by RIS News, Thoughtworks took the opportunity at NF to highlight the new e-commerce engine it built for Mitchells‘ website. In addition to putting a spotlight on its latest project, Thoughtworks also connected with many retail industry professionals to learn from and share with the behind-the-scenes retail software experts.

Unata

In addition to meeting and networking with other members of the retail community, this year’s NRF for Unata also highlighted a major endeavor that is in-progress between the digital grocery solutions company and regional grocery chain, Lowes Foods. In a video interview with Retail Touchpoints, Michael Moore, CMO for Lowes Foods, spoke on how the partnership is “bringing to life a whole new customer experience” known as “retail-tainment” with the help of Unata.

NRF 2013: What Editors and Analysts are Predicting

They don’t call NRF “Retail’s Big Show” for nothing! Ketner Group has attended NRF for the past 13 years, and year after year, it’s the ONE show that matters more than any other – and a great place to connect with retail’s leading editors and analysts. We asked a number of our friends in the editor and analyst communities to share their insights about NRF, and you’ll be interested in seeing their thoughts on retail trends, technologies, and the biggest surprises of 2012.

What will you be looking for at NRF 2013, in terms of retail trends and technology?

Jordan Speer, Editor-in-Chief, Apparel Magazine: Generally, I’ll be looking for technology that apparel retailers/brands are using. In particular, I’ll be interested to see how things continue to integrate to make a seamless omni-channel experience possible. It’s difficult for me to think of distinct technologies these days. It all goes together: Social media is connected to CRM is connected to loyalty is connected to POS is connected to mobile is connected to RFID is connected to fulfillment and so on and so forth. I’ll be looking for ways in which retailers are casting off the barriers between all of these solutions and getting the big picture of their enterprise.

Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research: What I’m looking for is practical usability of technology.  I have been hearing a lot of buzzwords – “mobility,” “the customer as part of merchandising processes,” “Big Data” (my current fave), “Cloud.” So what I would like to see is the nitty-gritty of what it takes to actually get the job done.  For example, “What does the user interface in a system that includes the customer dimension of data look like?”  “How do you manage 30,000 iPhones and iPads in your stores?”

Joe Skorupa, Group Editor-in-Chief, RIS News: I am looking for technology strategies and solutions that are responsive to the dramatic shifts taking place in the marketplace as well as those that enable retailers to become more pro-active and get ahead of fast-moving trends.

Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints: I am expecting to see more advanced solutions that address the data collection and analytics related to Big Data and omnichannel retail. Retailers like Macy’s are starting to focus more on allocating by individual store, based on the demographics and seasonality of each store. New solutions need to provide an easy way for merchants to make this happen.

I also anticipate more solutions targeted to mobile payments, and the requirements around EMV. Retailers need to be prepared to accept EMV when the April 2013 deadline rolls around. Additionally, by October 2015, fraud liability will shift in the marketplace, which could be an incentive for merchants to enable EMV transactions before that date.

Greg Buzek, Founder and President, IHL Group, and Co-founder of the Retail Orphan Initiative: I think we’ll see a lot of emphasis in three main areas.  The rise of Big Data and Social integration will be a major trend.  Mobile will be everywhere – in all flavors – iOS, Android, Windows 8; we will be past our first mobile Christmas.  And then there are the rapid changes in the POS industry.  We are seeing a seismic shift right now in threats to this business and a changing of the guard in established competitors.  And of course everyone will be talking about how great Retail ROI’s SuperSaturday was!

What have been the biggest surprises in the retail industry so far in 2012?

Joe Skorupa, RIS: This is the year of bold transformation of business models and instead of taking a cautious approach or battling it, retailers are embracing change and finding new opportunities.

Greg Buzek, IHL: The biggest surprise is the speed in which retailers have come out and said they are never buying another POS terminal again.  We haven’t even seen mobile survive a Christmas rush, and several retailers have already said they are all mobile from now on.

Jordan Speer, Apparel: I think the big surprises for me are the increasing shift to the “fulfill-from-store” model and also the sense that, in apparel, we are really on the edge of seeing technologies like “magic mirrors” and such start to materialize at the commercial level. One other thing – it has really hit home with me this year just how much Amazon truly presents a major threat to so many retailers. I am glad that many of them are addressing that and will be interested to see some of the clever ways that retailers use product and technology to keep customers in their brick-and-mortar or online stores.

Paula Rosenblum, RSR: I suppose it’s the explosion of mobile payments – or the apparent coming explosion.  Starbucks adopting Square and Home Depot adopting PayPal was a pretty big surprise.  Beyond that? That wireless is still just not prevalent.  And overall in the industry, that the luxury market is softening.  I honestly don’t understand why it’s happening.

What do tech vendors and PR people need to keep in mind as they reach out to you for NRF?

Debbie Hauss, Retail TouchPoints: We look forward to meeting with as many companies and retailers as possible during NRF, to discuss industry trends and announcements. The most productive conversations are around innovations and how we can help retail companies improve their businesses. Once again this year, Retail TouchPoints will be filming short video interviews with retailers and solution providers during the NRF event. If any companies are interested in participating in these videos, they should contact us as soon as possible.

Jordan Speer, Apparel: I always appreciate a brief synopsis of press releases announcing new technologies, along with information on which apparel companies are using the technology (if any). If they can’t reveal that info specifically, it is helpful to know at least what type of apparel companies are using it (big vs. small; specialty vs. department, etc.) In the synopsis, it is helpful also for me to understand if the technology (or process or whatever) being announced is a significant shift, or basically just an update of what’s been available. It’s also helpful for PR people to keep in mind that I am looking for apparel companies that will talk to us on various topics, including but definitely not limited to those on our editorial calendar.

Paula Rosenblum, RSR:  They should understand that we’d be happy to take pre-briefings and will be doing a webinar or something for our customers afterwards to review what we saw at NRF. I would imagine what they want to know from us (besides “do you like our stuff?”) is “What did you see that was cool?”  This year, we’re going to have time to actually answer that question adequately.  Heck, we might even attend some sessions!  After much thought, we realized it’s a way better way to add value.

Greg Buzek, IHL:  Vendors should have talking points in handout form either in the meeting or use the meeting as more relationship building and very short demos rather than marketing speak. We see between 12-18 sales pitches a day; what gets remembered is the one-pager with key talking points. What are the 3-4 things you want me to remember? Have that on a piece of paper or better yet, show me and email it to me while we are in the meeting (not “I’ll get that to you”) so I am sure to have it in my inbox when I get home.

Personally, I am buried in the materials from my own event, other interesting things and several bags of swag items from different events. Standard collateral material doesn’t make it home. An analyst is not going to pay extra luggage fees to carry home a bunch of glossy materials.

Like everyone else, we are sleep deprived and exhausted and we will have heard 40-50 company pitches and caught up with another 100 friends and colleagues. Vendors give the same pitch over and over; we hear 50 different ones. What gets remembered past the show is what is written down or on a single page handed to us – and the meetings with our friends.

Analyst Relations: The “R” is for Relationship

Clients frequently ask our opinion on analyst relations. Which firms do we recommend? Who are the top analysts in a particular space? How often should they brief with analysts? Should they become paying clients?

We can’t answer all these questions in a short blog post. But we’ve been fortunate to work with a number of clients that understand the value of analyst relations, and in the process, we’ve seen what works – and what doesn’t – in analyst relations.

Here are several principles that Ketner Group stresses to our clients. We use these as some of our guidelines in helping our clients develop appropriate analyst relations programs.

Remember, it’s a relationship. Analyst relations are first and foremost about building relationships – and like any relationship, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Relationships between analysts and technology vendors are mutually beneficial. Analysts need to know about the key vendors in the spaces that they cover, and vendors, in turn, depend upon the analysts to help get the word out to the market. But like all relationships, analyst relations take time and nurturing.

Know the analysts and leverage their strengths. It’s essential for vendors to develop relationships with the leading analysts that cover their technology – not only to be included in key reports but also because large enterprises often turn to retailers to get their advice when they’re considering a major technology initiative. Analysts can be especially valuable as strategic partners, offering insight on product direction and positioning, the competitive landscape, possible partners or acquisition targets, and messaging.

However, to “go deep” with analysts, vendors will need to develop paying relationships. And if your company is considering that, you’ll want to carefully consider everything that entails (which leads to our next point).

Be realistic about the commitments. Becoming a paying client of the right analyst firm can pay for itself many times over, if vendors are willing to commit time and resources. However, that leads squarely back to the first point – you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Are you willing to do regular briefings, talk honestly about the challenges your company faces, accept tough feedback, and invest in periodic analyst days, so your top analysts really know your technology and direction? Are your key executives willing to commit their time and energy to nurturing key analyst relationships? Continue reading

April 2012: Retail Technology’s Landmark Month

For those of us who spend our working hours focused on retail technology, April 2012 was a landmark month, for two reasons.

First, IBM announced that it was selling its POS business to Toshiba on April 16 – exiting the business that it started nearly 40 years ago and dominated for decades. To someone who started his retail tech PR and marketing career working with POS companies such as Wincor Nixdorf, Triversity and 360Commerce, this was a watershed event. IBM owned the POS industry. To other POS hardware manufacturers, IBM was the #1 competitor and the standard against which they were always compared. IBM was also the preferred hardware partner for virtually every POS software company, too, due to IBM’s brand reputation and unparalleled reach into retail.

I’ll leave it to the retail industry analysts to dissect all the reasons behind IBM’s decision (and for an excellent analysis by IHL’s Greg Buzek, click here). However, one reason that Greg mentions stood out above all the others: the continued rise of mobile, which leads me to the second point.

When the annual RIS/Gartner Technology Study was released early last month, retailers cited “mobile POS with payment” as their top technology for 2012. Retailers also ranked “developing a mobile enterprise and/or store strategy” as their #2 action item over the next 18 months – second only to social media.

Is mobile POS one of the main reasons that IBM is saying “adios” to the POS market? Certainly margin erosion in POS hardware was the key reason, but apart from that, I think it’s all about the shift to mobile. And in fact, IHL’s research shows that 72% of specialty retailers plan to roll out mobile POS, and they’ll also be purchasing 20% fewer traditional POS terminals.

Of course, traditional POS isn’t going to disappear completely, at least not anytime soon. But there are compelling economic and customer service advantages behind retail’s continuing rush to mobile. In years to come, I think we’ll see fewer cash wraps in stores, especially department stores and specialty, freeing up retailers to rethink and redesign the retail store experience. The work that Ketner Group is doing with our clients in mobile POS, mobile commerce and location-based mobile marketing is certainly hastening the transition.

April, 2012: IBM exits the retail POS that it founded, and mobile POS is crowned the #1 technology in retail. It’s no coincidence – and it’s one of the reasons that retail tech fascinates and intrigues me, with surprises and twists as new technologies continue to unfold.

Top 5 Questions Companies Should Consider in Planning PR for 2012

It’s our favorite time of the year—and I’m not talking about the Holidays. December is the month where our clients start thinking about goals for their 2012 public relations programs. In addition to new technology and industry standards, every year brings growth and change to a business, so re-evaluating one’s PR program is a must. Here’s a look at five of the most important questions companies should ask themselves and their PR agency when planning a new PR strategy for 2012.

What worked for you in 2011?
This may seem like an obvious question to ask, but finding a satisfying answer proves difficult for many. PR can be more of an art than a science and is often challenging to measure. Try answering this question with another: “What PR wins stood out most to you this year?” If your answer is, “The customer-focused articles we secured,” or “The pre-launch media and analyst interest we received,” then aggressive media and analyst outreach was what worked best for you in 2011. When you’ve identified your most valued PR win, put an emphasis on that when planning for 2012.

Budget cuts? How do you get the same value for less money?
Budget cuts are nothing new. Every year seems to bring higher demands of producing more results for less money. While it seems as though this request is the same as asking a contractor to build an “MTV Cribs” home on a “Design on a Dime” budget, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. You can still have a swanky PR program if you’re willing to cut back in other areas that may not produce such cost-effective results. For example, consider reducing the number of events and tradeshows you attend or exhibit as this could free up tens of thousands of dollars per show. Lightening your advertising spend can also allow you to spend more on PR, which can bring you earned media—a more valuable and cost-effective means of promotion.

Do you have product or solution launches?
Is your company planning to introduce a new product or solution in 2012? Even if it’s planned for later in the year, product launch PR and marketing activities should be outlined from day one. Product launches (especially products that are new concepts) are one of the best ways to earn media coverage and brand recognition and need to be carefully planned throughout the early lifecycle (launch, adoption and evaluation).

Where is the majority of your revenue coming from?
It’s easy to get excited about your new products or services, but don’t forget who pays the bills. Make sure your PR program has plenty of resources assigned to the product or service that is bringing in the most revenue. Have you been busy with pre-briefing analysts on your new technology? Make sure that you use existing happy customers as media references for your current selling product while you save press releases and analyst briefings for the new product. Continue reading

How Retail Tech Vendors Can Make the Most Out of Analyst Relations

We wear numerous hats when working with our retail technology clients on their PR and marketing programs. (However, as discussed in our recent post, we have to be mindful that we’re not trying to do everything all at once.) One of the most important hats we wear is that of the Analyst Relations manager.

Just like any smart business strategy, there is no single best recipe for success when it comes to Analyst Relations, because every company is different, and every analyst is different and has unique preferences. However, there are a number of best practices that we stress to our clients when working with retail and technology analysts. In this edition of Shopology, we wanted to bring you some pointers straight from the experts themselves.

1. What is the number one thing you wish retail tech vendors understood better about working with analysts?

KEVIN STERNECKERT (Gartner): We don’t need a history of where the industry’s been. Too many software vendors feel like they need to educate us on the state of the industry and spend up to 25% of the time talking about stuff that’s known and we hear everyday from vendors.

Also, many of the strategic analysts are not as concerned with the individual features/functions of a technology, but what’s truly different about the company. Most companies, when asked what’s truly different about them, surprisingly do not have a solid answer.

PAULA ROSENBLUM (Retail Systems Research): What we care most about is “What problem are you trying to solve?” and then “How do you solve it?”  70-page Powerpoints are hard to deal with.  Don’t forget, we often have 4-5 briefings in a single day.

It’s also sort of offensive to have someone justify their position/existence to one analyst firm by quoting another analyst firm. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who’s bothered by this, and it is totally irrelevant to me where another analyst firm ranked your company in their report. Continue reading