Omnichannel Options for Austin Shoppers

Exploring Omnichannel at The Domain

When looking for a new place to live after I graduated college, proximity to work topped my list of requirements. Luckily, I was able to find an apartment that I loved within a seven minute distance from work. My new home also happened to be only seven minutes away from the place I sometimes jokingly refer to as my second home: The Domain, a shopping center featuring some of Austin’s best omnichannel options.

Moving to North Austin has only made that statement even more true. What once was a light-hearted joke, is more of a reality for me now. As a frequent visitor of Austin’s premier retail hub, certain stores have caught my eye. Since I’m constantly reading about omnichannel trends, I thought I’d assess how my favorite stores are implementing these tactics. For a look at how The Domain exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance, check out Jeff’s blog from 2018. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned about omnichannel options in Austin as a local consumer.

Nordstrom Provides Expanded Order Pickup Options

When it comes to omnichannel options, Nordstrom is no stranger. Nordstrom’s app is an essential tool for digital shoppers who like to browse online before they buy. When searching for items in-app, shoppers can even custom tailor the search bar to reflect their store location of choice. Plus, the app will curate personalized outfits based on your past purchases and search history.

A few months ago, I tested out the “reservations” option, which allows shoppers to reserve up to 10 items online. Through the app, I reserved a pair of shoes. Within a couple of hours, I got a notification that the pair of shoes I picked out were ready for me to try on. Upon my arrival at The Domain, I received a second notification explaining where to go to try on the shoes. After parking, I entered through the doors to the second floor and found the designated kiosk immediately. Subsequently, a sales associate directed me to a reserved dressing room and assisted me when I requested to try on a different size.

I’d call my experience a success. As retailers start to provide more omnichannel options where the digital and physical sides of the store work together, I’m looking forward to quicker and easier shopping trips. In addition to the reservation option, Nordstrom at The Domain also offers buy online, pickup in-store. In a jam-packed parking lot, customers picking up their online orders can park in reserved spaces, speeding up their shopping journey.

Away Creates Seamless Shopping Experiences

Away, a luggage startup and lifestyle brand, caught my attention on Instagram. With its “clicks to bricks” model, the formerly online-only retailer now has seven physical locations. Lucky for us Austinites, The Domain is home to one of Away’s stores. I’m taking off on a plane to Europe this month and realized it was time to upgrade my luggage. Perfect excuse for my first trip to Away!

Before visiting the store, I researched options and decided which pieces of luggage would be best for my traveling needs. Based on Away’s website and social media platforms, I’ll admit my expectations for the store were already high. To my surprise, my experience at the store exceeded my already-high expectations.

Though I had an idea of what I wanted, I had a few questions before making the investment. One of the sales associates was quick to greet me and patient with my questions. She even looked up measurement restrictions for the airlines I am flying to ensure my luggage would make the cut. Her help ultimately led to my decision to purchase a set, including a carry-on suitcase and bag. I left the store feeling refreshed and satisfied with my purchase. What started as browsing on Instagram turned into visiting the store and making a purchase. Yet another example of an omnichannel option in action!

Omnichannel Options Are On the Rise

All in all, omnichannel is putting a spin on traditional shopping and giving consumers something to look forward to. Whether it’s through a personalized app, store navigation tool or expanded pickup options, omnichannel is only growing. I consider myself lucky to live in a city that often gets a “first taste” of omnichannel options that later evolve. The latest and greatest is right in my backyard, so to speak. If my experiences at Nordstrom and Away are any indication, the future is bright for omnichannel retail.

Grocery Fulfillment: A Curbside Chat with Greg and Jeff

OK, we’ll admit it — the KG team likes to eat. And we have several very cool clients in grocery technology. So it’s no wonder that we spend a lot of time talking about the fast-changing world of grocery fulfillment. And in this blog, we’re taking a slightly different approach as our own Greg Earl and Jeff Ketner have an online chat about one of our favorite topics.

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A More Convenient Way to Get Your Groceries

Jeff: It’s the perfect day to chat about grocery fulfillment.  As I write, the KG office is getting its monthly mega-delivery of frozen dinners, snacks, sandwich stuff and everything else it takes to feed our hungry crew, courtesy of HEB home delivery. Our team’s ready to descend on the kitchen like a plague of locusts. And at noon, I’ll swing by HEB to pick up a Curbside order to take home, since our fridge at home is just about empty. Speaking of HEB Curbside, Greg, you’re one of its most outspoken fans — your love of curbside is probably only slightly behind your love of Cabo Bob’s.

Greg: While Cabo Bob’s transcends my love for everything in this world, I love HEB Curbside. As the area around my local HEB keeps developing, the store becomes more of a mad house. Even finding parking isn’t worth it for me. Being able to avoid the chaos, swing by and grab all of my groceries is a godsend. However, I will say that they could do a better job at updating their real-time inventory. Nearly every time I shop, they substitute items. This isn’t a deal breaker but can throw a wrench in my cooking plans every now and then.

I haven’t personally tried HEB delivery yet, but today’s office order went incredibly smoothly. Plus it’s much cheaper than when we used Instacart, right?

Be Careful – Not All Grocery Delivery Services Are Equal

Jeff: Yep, our first HEB Curbside pickup order was WAY less expensive than our Instacart deliveries. So I’m glad to see that Instacart is lowering its prices. Hopefully they can up their level of service, too; I tried Instacart one time with Central Market, my favorite grocery store in Austin, and it can politely be described as a disaster. The delivery was late, the communication from the person picking our order was incomprehensible, and I had a lot of trouble using my $15 off coupon code, which was the only reason we tried Instacart in the first place. A recent delivery experience from Randall’s, a perennial also-ran in terms of Austin market share, was far superior. I’m not sure who they use for fulfillment, but it was a surprisingly good experience.

Speaking of surprises, I find it interesting that our office is split nearly 50-50 among those who use grocery fulfillment and those who don’t. What’s up with our team here?

Believe It or Not, In-Store Shopping Advocates Are Out There

Greg: That’s too bad about your Instacart experience. I guess it’s difficult for them to maintain quality across all of their employees throughout the country. Speaking of quality, I think that’s exactly why some folk around here are torn on letting other people pick their groceries — especially when it comes to produce, which is very fair. I’ve received a few fruits or veggies in the past that I wouldn’t have necessarily picked for myself.  

However, some of the luddites around here just enjoy going to the store for the sake of grocery shopping – ridiculous! I think I can understand where they’re coming from though. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to pick out exactly what you want, roam the aisles and grab something that you didn’t even realize you wanted (a dangerous approach sometimes when your cart ends up well beyond your budget). Plus, a trip to the store is very worth it if there are free samples throughout the aisles.

The team especially enjoys shopping in-store at the more experiential/unique grocers including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco. When you consider the option to drink a beer while shopping at Whole Foods, it does sound much more enjoyable. As for Whole Foods/Amazon delivery, the only experience I’ve had was extremely disappointing. I tried to order some prosecco for the office because Amazon touted a free two-hour delivery promotion. However, this ‘free delivery’ required a minimum that we didn’t need to reach and the ‘two-hour delivery’ meant I could select a two hour window, not that the item would be delivered within two hours of ordering. Going to Twin Liquors down the road saved me a lot of money and time. I’m curious about placing an entire grocery order though.

Jeff: Interesting! You’d expect a better experience from Amazon based on how fast they’ve been rolling out Whole Foods delivery – maybe it’s more worth it for an entire order. There sure are a lot of options out there and I don’t think we can expect the industry to slow down any time soon. There are a lot of factors for grocers to consider — cost, product selection, inventory, customer service, etc. I think we both are looking forward to seeing these services get even stronger and more rewarding, right Greg?

Greg: That’s right, Jeff. Unlike some of the colleagues, I’d honestly love to never have to think about getting my own groceries. Maybe I should move back home…

In the meantime, I can just eat Cabo Bob’s for every meal.

Ketner Group Takes Home the Gold…and Platinum MarCom Awards!

This blog post has been provided by our intern, Meghan Farrell.

It’s been a very exciting few weeks over here at Ketner Group Communications, and it just keeps getting better! Last week the MarCom Awards named us gold and platinum winners for client campaigns.

Our founder and president, Jeff Ketner, shared his excitement about the agency’s recognition and his gratitude for the KG team:

We’re proud to receive platinum and gold awards in such a prestigious competition. It’s a testimony to the strategic and creative thinking of our team, and we’re thrilled to be recognized.”

So, what are the MarCom Awards?

The MarCom Awards international creative competition recognizes outstanding achievement by marketing and communication professionals. Entries and winners range from individual communicators to media conglomerates, Fortune 500 companies, corporate marketing and communication departments, advertising agencies, PR firms, design shops, production companies and freelancers.

The competition has grown to perhaps the largest of its kind in the world, with approximately 6,000 entrants, with 15% winning platinum and 20% winning gold awards.

The MarCom Award program is administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), an organization of several thousand creative professionals worldwide. The Association oversees awards and recognition programs, provides judges, and sets standards for industry excellence. As part of its mission, AMCP fosters and supports the efforts of creative professionals who contribute their unique talents to public service and charitable organizations.

A gold-medal eBook

Ketner Group was recognized as a gold winner for the eBook “Health-Conscious Retail,”created for Symphony RetailAI, a global provider of Artificial Intelligence-enabled decision platforms, solutions and customer-centric insights that drive validated growth for retailers and CPG manufacturers. Health is an emerging market trend that grocers must pursue proactively – this eBook helps them to understand health-conscious customers, and how health and wellness needs should inform the retailer’s strategy.

As we’ve found, eBooks like these help B2B vendors create an authentic brand identity and authority among their target audience. Building and distributing content such as this leads to greater engagement and the opportunity to expand existing and prospective relationships.

Social media marketing goes platinum

Ketner Group was also recognized as a platinum winner for its content marketing campaign created for PlumSlice, a cloud-native provider of product workflow automation for enterprise process optimization. The program included sponsored social media promotion of curated thought leadership blogs to highly targeted audiences, emphasizing PlumSlice’s unique approach to improving retailers’ efficiency and profitability in an omni-channel commerce environment.

Staying atop the charts

With our recent name change (Ketner Group Communications), new website, and our “investigative” video release – receiving gold and platinum really was the icing on the cake for a successful month at Ketner Group. Between the MarCom Awards win and our recognition as a finalist for “Best Company Culture” in the 2018 Greater Austin Business Awards, we are wrapping up this year with strong results. As we enter 2019, we will to continue to innovate and produce high-impact work for our clients; whether it receives an award or not doesn’t ultimately matter – but hey, it doesn’t hurt!

PRSA ICON 2018: It’s All About Relevant and Data-Driven Content

Last week, the Ketner Group team attended the PRSA 2018 International Conference, better known to the public relations community as PRSA ICON, in our own backyard here in Austin, Texas. If you are not familiar with the conference, it’s designed specifically to help the communications community enhance our personal and professional network through career development and connecting with other PR practitioners.

Needless to say, the KG team definitely networked, and we DEFINITELY returned to the office with new ideas and methods for bettering our professional craft. We heard inspiring keynotes from Do Something’s CEO Aria Finger and digital marketing pioneer Ann Handley. The PRSA ICON breakout sessions we attended were all about perfecting your messages in clear yet relevant ways, and also explored new sectors of the communications industry. Here are just a few tidbits of the best practices we learned at PRSA ICON this year:

Lesson One: Communicating should ALWAYS be about your audience

Although as communication professionals we may think we are clearly delivering our messages, that may not always be the case. As we learned at the conference, we currently live in the age where content is king, but that can lead to a vicious cycle of “churning and burning” an immense amount of content, losing sight of one key component: your target audience. For example, think of a scenario where someone is just talking at you, instead of trying to understand what experiences or topics may be relevant to you based on your experiences and former knowledge – chances are, mid-lecture your mind will start drifting away to more relevant thoughts.

Therefore, your audience should always be at the forefront of the message. Key questions like ‘what is my audience’s point of reference?’ and ‘why would this be relevant to them?’ and ‘what does my audience need?’ should always lead your messaging strategy. After all, if you lose your audience, who is going to read your content?

Lesson Two: We are all, or should strive to be, data analysts

We live in a digital age where every search and click is tracked. And while we in the PR world are notorious for disliking math and preferring words over figures, it’s time to join the data revolution. At PRSA ICON, we discussed the need for PR professionals to dive into the world of data to create an even bigger need and sense of interest for each and every story, while continuing to make our pitches and strategies not only timely but also informed and relevant. As IBM’s Brandi Boatner explained during her workshop, while the world of data is intimidating, the key here is to start one step at a time. She recommended starting with Google Trends and then identifying data sets that are relevant to your communications strategy. As Boatner explained, when you dive into the world of data, you should not try to analyze a large amount of data all at once, as both you and your audience will be overwhelmed: “A good storyteller masters things that are unseen and with AI and data analytics, you can create a communications strategy that quickly identifies and gets ahead of trends.”

Lesson Three: Social media influencers are now a staple in public relations

As industry conversations continue to heat up on the effectiveness of social media influencers, the fact is, social influencers are now and will continue to be a staple in the world of communications. (Ketner Group recently profiled one such influencer in a recent blog!) What’s more, social media influencers can help companies effectively grow organic audiences and customers they would not have had before. As we learned at PRSA ICON, leveraging social media influencers for your communication efforts is a matter of conducting diligent research to identify the right influencers that will create a new level of authentic communication between you and your target audience.

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And in public relations and communications as a whole, there is something new to learn every day! We look forward to implementing the lessons learned at this year’s conference into our communications craft as we continue to be life-long learners in this industry.

New Things Are All Around – Welcome to Ketner Group Communications

I always tell people it’s the little things that make me happy – a good hair day, catching all the green lights on the way home, or finding that lost $10 bill in my pocket. That’s why today, the official launch of our new and improved Ketner Group website, I am grinning ear to ear remembering all of the (several dozen) little things that happened during the journey of creating this latest version of KetnerGroup.com.

For starters, before the painstaking, yet satisfying process of developing the new website began – Jeff Ketner and I made the bold decision to change the name of the agency to Ketner Group Communications, leaving behind Ketner Group PR + Marketing. As an agency, we have grown in so many ways over the past few years, not only in our ranks, but also in expanding our scope of services to offer social media management and digital content marketing to clients. We felt that the word “communications” better described where we are now and where we are headed in the years to come. We think it fits us quite nicely, and we hope you like it!

So, a new name meant a new logo, with a new color palette, to go along with a new website! Enter our new and amazing friends from Mixtape Marketing (bless their hearts) who have hung in there with us since November 2017 and have been the best marketing and design partners we could ever ask for! No one ever said creating a new website was easy, but the Mixtape team made the nearly year-long process of getting this sucker off the ground a fun and enjoyable experience. Our hats off to them.

As part of the new Ketnergroup.com site, we wanted the content, design, tone and imagery to better reflect who we are as a group and our philosophy as an agency. As the homepage says, we are “obsessed with exceeding client expectations” and we love showcasing our can-do culture. It’s at the heart of who we are. We are a fun group of taco and latte-loving “strategists, writers, talkers, listeners, tweeters, readers, music nerds and goofballs” who love nothing more than to see our clients win big. We think that sentiment is perfectly reflected in the new website.

While we hoped to have launched the site sooner, we had a few worthwhile roadblocks come up this past year that needed our attention – like the six new clients we brought on in 2018, which led us to hire three new employees, bringing our current KG full-time employee count to 10. We were nominated as a finalist in “company culture” for the 2018 Greater Austin Business awards, and have been busy finalizing the details to open a New York office in 2019. Oh, and we bought new chairs for our conference room – they are so nice and comfy! Like I said, it’s the little things.

I suppose you can consider this blog the digital version of a “ribbon cutting” ceremony for the new Ketnergroup.com! To make it KG official though, we celebrated with some Torchy’s chips and queso, a big chocolate cake and champagne. It’s how we roll.

Welcome to Ketner Group Communications – our door is always open!

Austin’s Domain: Who Says Shopping Has to Be Boring?

I’ll start with a confession: I don’t really like shopping, which is a surprising admission for someone who’s worked with enough retail technology companies to populate a small mall. My idea of a great shopping trip is spending five minutes on my laptop, finding a reasonably good deal, ordering what I need online, and then calling it a day. I’m one of the millions of reasons why ecommerce sales continue to skyrocket, year after year. (And yes, my Amazon Prime account gets a hefty workout every week.)

Here’s my second confession, though: I love observing retail trends and the creative ways that retailers are reinventing themselves to get people off the couch and back into their stores. And what’s happening at the Domain, Austin’s premier shopping destination, is particularly intriguing to me. Retail is transforming at a dizzying rate, and the Domain is a microcosm of the changes in the industry.

For those of you who live outside Austin, the Domain is a thoughtful mix of retail stores, restaurants, hotels, apartments, offices – and a hugely popular Whole Foods – that’s known as Austin’s “second downtown.” It transformed 300 acres of formerly vacant Texas scrubland into a dog-friendly, family-friendly destination that’s fun to visit – even for a shopping curmudgeon like me.

I’ve had multiple occasions to visit the Domain in recent months, and each time I’ve come away convinced that it exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance.

Clicks to bricks

Warby Parker, Away, UNTUCKit, Bonobos, b8ta and Casper are some of the hottest e-commerce brands around. They all have brick and mortar stores at the Domain, too, along with Amazon Books, as my fellow KGer Amanda noted in a blog earlier this year. Physical stores are playing an increasingly important role for online retailers, and some of the best can be found at the Domain. (Tip for Amazon power shoppers: take your returns to the Amazon Books location. They’re happy to take them, and they won’t mind if you purchase a book or two while you’re there.)

Turning shopping into an experience

“Experiential retail” is one of the biggest themes in retail right now, as evidenced by the 13.4 million search results on that term in Google. Retailers are focused on creating experiences you simply can’t get online – for example, sampling the coolest tech gear on the planet at b8ta or trying out a Casper mattress. But it’s not just about the experience at each individual retailer. A destination like the Domain makes the entire shopping trip an experience, with green spaces, a splash pad for kids, outdoor restaurants, an entertainment district that rivals Austin’s famed Sixth Street, and a compelling lineup of retailers, which brings up my final point.

Making it fun

People flock to the Domain because it’s fun: a great place to take your out-of-town friends who want to shop, eat dinner, let the kids run around, and experience something that’s uniquely Austin. There’s something for everyone, from luxury brands like Tiffany and Neiman Marcus to brands that are aimed squarely at the mainstream. The Domain is anything but boring; and as retail consultant Steve Dennis points out, it’s a bad time for retailers to be boring. The Domain has taken that mantra to heart.

I may not like to shop, but the Domain has won me over. And it reinforces why I love working with technology companies that are helping drive some of the changes in this fast-paced, fascinating industry.

Greater Austin Business Awards – Here We Come!

This blog post has been provided by our intern, Meghan Farrell.

We are thrilled to announce that Ketner Group Communications has been selected as a finalist for the Company Culture category of the Greater Austin Business Awards!

The competition is designed to honor excellence in business and recognize companies and organizations in the Austin region for achievements, community contributions and milestones. The Greater Austin Business Awards is one of the largest award and networking events in Central Texas, bringing together about 1,000 business leaders, entrepreneurs, organizations, government officials and regional chambers.

The culture at Ketner Group Communications is one of the many things that makes us unique, so we are proud of being named as a finalist in the Company Culture category. This award is presented to an organization that fosters a creative, collaborative company culture that is sustainable and retains employees – and that describes us perfectly.

Work-Life Balance

Ketner Group believes that having a healthy work-life balance is incredibly important. We offer flexible schedules and provide the opportunity to work from home, or virtually anywhere (even Ireland and Bali!), as our staff needs. Employees are encouraged to take time off when necessary, including much-needed vacations. It’s important to us that our employees are working at a comfortable pace while still producing incredible PR work for our clients. We love to include fun events during the week such as Taco Tuesdays, Wake Up Wednesday coffee runs, company lunches to celebrate big and small victories, and, of course, to celebrate any and all type of food/drink “days” (i.e. National Pizza Day) to keep our team motivated and morale high. Our motto is “work hard, play hard and be nice to people,” which we believe is the reason why our employees love working here, and our clients love working with us!

This healthy work/life balance encourages our employees to stick with Ketner Group for the long haul. On average, employees have stayed at the agency 4 to 5 years, which is way above average for PR agencies, and we’re working hard to make Ketner Group an ideal place for employees to spend the bulk of their career. Our SVP and partner Catherine Seeds will be celebrating her 17-year anniversary at the agency in November.

Professional Development

We believe professional growth is very important. Each employee is highly encouraged to contribute to outside professional organizations and community programs. To that end, each employee has a yearly budget for professional development. This allows them to travel/attend PR industry events, take classes to learn a specific skill set or anything else that will help them grow and develop as a PR professional.

Team Work Makes the Dream Work

At Ketner Group every opinion is not only listened to, but encouraged, no matter the rank or seniority of the person. Not just for client work, but for new business, company culture, process improvement, investment areas – literally anything. We encourage bold thinking and risk-taking. We think it’s important for all of our employees to know that they are heard and are an important part of why Ketner Group is the way it is. We believe in our team 100% so if a team member has an idea, we’ll always listen — and more often than not, we’ll act on it.

We are very excited and honored to be named a finalist for the Greater Austin Business Awards. Winners will be announced on Aug. 30 at the JW Marriot Austin!