stewards of the future webinar tameka vasquez

How Marketers Can Be Stewards To the Future

For the first KG Connects of the year, we were delighted to have Tameka Vasquez — strategist, educator and futurist — join Catherine Seeds to discuss the importance of being what Tameka calls, “stewards to the future.”

In her day job, Tameka serves as a global marketing leader at Genpact. She also just recently jumped back into the world of academia as an assistant professor at St. John’s University in New York. She started her work in futurism because, as she describes, “everything in the world is just made up, and we have the power to make up something else.”

Read a summary of the webinar below, or if you’d like, watch the full webinar on-demand through Zoom.

What is a steward to the future?

Tameka often uses the phrase, “steward to the future.” To her, it’s a literal phrase.

She explained that a steward is a person who takes care of passengers on planes or cruise ships during their trip. The same concept applies to marketing, according to her, marketers need to think, “how do we use [marketing] to navigate people from the point of where they are today to the future?”

A futuristic remix on the four Ps of marketing

Most marketers know the four Ps of marketing — place, price, product and promotion — as well as how important this is for organizations. However, in future-work, Tameka takes a different approach to this classic method.

four ps of marketing philosophy

She puts forth the following:

  • Possible: what is something that can reasonably happen?
  • Plausible: what is feasible given what we know right now?
  • Probable: what is likely to happen? 
  • Preferred: what fits expectations and ambitions?

She stated the importance of these future four P’s, especially for marketers, because, “there is a high degree of uncertainty and there are a lot of contextual instances where you have to apply these four p’s.”

Applying futuristic thinking to marketing plans

As part of her work as a futurist, Tameka has to think, “What does it mean when we say the future?” She continued, “that could be 2021, it could be 2030. Whatever that marker of time is, you can then decide what the story that you want to tell about the future is. How do we use the attention that we have in the moment to give people a view of the future?”

tameka vasquez attention quote

Using 2020 as an example, she described how we needed to meet the moment by educating people on COVID-19 best practices while also thinking about how current events allow individuals and organizations to reimagine what the future could be.

“If 2030 was a time where certain things were possible, 2020 probably accelerated that path where we now need to think about those things far more intentionally,” she explained.

Getting comfortable with discomfort

The future means change, and change is very uncomfortable for many. Especially when those changes run counter to organizational planning. Tameka says that while strategic planning is never really going to go away, we can factor change into our planning easier than we could in the past.

She said that, “we have the capability to be social listeners in a way that we just hadn’t historically. While you’re in this space of planning, you also need to be in a space of listening.”

marketing strategic planning

When it comes to meeting business goals, Tameka explained that it’s still possible to apply futurist thinking. The trick is to focus on KPIs while, “making slight pivots. The plan doesn’t get thrown out the window, you’re slightly shifting.”

Learning more about futurism

Futurist thinking isn’t the easiest to jump into. Tameka’s preferred method for learning is to look at what brands are doing beyond the product or service.

“I really want people to look at how certain companies have captured the moment and how they’ve used the sentiment of the time to better position themselves,” Tameka said.

She used the example of how Twitter has been able to respond to the moment where trust and transparency are critical. She said that Twitter has been creating features that improve transparency, such as flagging questionable information. This does two key things simultaneously: it demonstrates Twitter is rising to the moment while also showing what a future of transparency might look like.

Tameka also shared some great beginner resources:

  • Prescient2050: Free resources that will help get you started learning and using the tools of strategic foresight and shaping your future.
  • Brookings Events: A nonprofit that conducts in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems.
  • Futures Festival: An event that highlights principles of inclusion, plurality, and collective participation as a means to how we can move toward challenging the status quo and move toward preferable shared futures.

Want to keep talking future?

There is a lot to discuss when it comes to futurism. If you want to keep the conversation going, reach out to Tameka on her website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn. Reminder: if you want all the insights from the webinar, you can watch it on demand.

watch kg connects january on demand

Join us for our March webinar to discuss B2B content!

KG Connects is moving to a bimonthly schedule for 2021. Join us in March for a discussion on how to create B2B content that puts Netflix to shame. Sign up for free.

Future of work webinar

The Future of Work: Shifting All the Paradigms

Last week, we were excited to host our first-ever panel discussion on KG Connects! Moderated by Ketner Group president, Catherine Seeds, our panel chatted about the future of work and included: Daniel Oppong, founder of OhanaHealth; Carolyn Birsky, founder of Compass Maven; and Sterling Hawkins, internationally recognized thought leader who focuses on the #NoMatterWhat approach.

As Catherine said as she opened the webinar, we couldn’t have picked a better topic for the end of the year. The working world has changed so rapidly that it has been hard for anyone to keep up.

Fortunately, our panel was able to help us make sense of it all and walk us through the changes they’ve seen companies undergo throughout 2020, as well as what that means for 2021 and beyond.

You can read the summary below or watch the webinar on-demand anytime on Zoom.

The impact of COVID-19 on hiring

Catherine: I’m curious, Daniel, are you seeing a lot of interest in the health-tech space right now?

Daniel: It’s a mixed bag, honestly. Even with the increase in hiring for the health-tech space in general, companies are still trying to figure out what they can do sustainably. Just because there is demand now doesn’t mean there will be demand over X amount of time.

Catherine: Has COVID helped or hindered companies’ recruiting efforts?

Daniel: Thinking about hiring, especially with the early-career candidates that I work with, presented a paradox. There’s a lot of opportunity, but also a lot of uncertainty as to where numbers are going to land at the end of the year. At the beginning of the pandemic, companies had to stop and see where things were going before making any hiring decisions. But as things have stabilized, companies know a little better going into 2021.

As far as creative ways to hire, look at more bespoke ways to distribute jobs. Look at more niche job boards like BuiltIn, Angel List or OhanaHealth to distribute jobs to the demographic you want to target. Additionally, get creative with who you involve in the hiring loop. Not everyone needs to be in the same physical space for an interview, so you can get more creative with who you involve in the hiring process.

Managing our teams in the COVID-19 environment

Catherine: Carolyn, you started your new managing position at the start of this pandemic, so I’d love for you to share some of the ways that you created a virtual environment to help them feel inspired, energized and innovative.

Carolyn: I joined my team fully virtually and I’ve met just one of the people that report to me in person at a distance. So, our entire experience together has been virtual. The biggest thing to focus on as a manager is being purposeful about the interactions you’re having.

Carolyn Birsky managing remote work

I’ve encouraged my team to have office hours where new members can go to them and foster a team environment. We also do cold call blocks on Zoom where everyone mutes their audio, but we can see each other making calls, and we message each other asking questions or sharing success. I’ve been looking for opportunities to do those kinds of things that we wouldn’t be able to do in office.

How remote work changes company culture

Catherine: Sterling, how are companies keeping culture fun and alive within their organizations while remote?

Sterling: Culture is this very nebulous thing, but it’s something that each of us innately knows. For example, if you travel to Dubai, Shanghai or Paris, something inside you knows you’re in a different world and that you have to operate differently.

The same thing happens in companies, and it gets reinforced from the conversations we’re having internally. But the transition to the virtual world is a chance to distinguish what that culture really is. We can start to see there are pieces of our culture that aren’t effective. Or maybe they were effective, but they aren’t anymore. How can we change some of those dynamics?

Catherine: Company culture is a big part of recruiting, and how does showing that culture translate to the current circumstance?

Daniel Oppong company culture

Daniel: COVID has separated everyone from the idea that they can come to a space and get a feel for the company culture there. How are companies showing up for the candidates that they are interviewing? The value proposition of the company, the clarity of the mission, the experience of interacting with the manager in the hiring loop all has to speak volumes.

Moving from the brick-and-mortar to the virtual

Catherine: Moving forward, what do we do with our physical office space?

Sterling: The short answer is that it depends. What part of the world are you in? What are you working on? But Synchrony Financial Services announced they are closing their main offices and turning what’s left into a shared workspace. Now they’ve taken their overhead down and created a more dynamic, interactive environment. There is now some kind of hybrid approach that will look different going forward.

Sterling Hawkins future of work

The hardships that come with the virtual workspace

Catherine: How do you deal with the isolation and depression, as well as the other mental hardships that come with working during the pandemic?

Carolyn: It starts with compassionate leadership. Even when we’re in person at an office, you need to, as a leader, start from a compassionate place. Certain people may have different home situations, you won’t know what that is, and you can’t pry into that, but you want to create a space where you say that you’re here to support them. It starts with leadership saying that your situation is OK and that you or anyone in the company is there for them.

Sterling: It’s so interesting how the pandemic has humanized all of our interactions. It’s almost expected and embraced for things to come up like crying children. Having some compassionate leadership is a piece of the puzzle, but also having some of the right support mechanisms inside companies to help people grow from these things matters. As we give our team mechanisms to help them grow, I think they’ll show up.

Daniel: I have to agree. Think about parents who don’t have changing work demands, but now have to think about their kiddos. How do we prioritize that? One of the things my company has done is focusing on employee resource groups. Like a working parents’ group, which has been a really meaningful way to support parents. To Carolyn’s point, having that empathetic view goes a long way.

missed future of work webinar

Keep the conversation going

The conversation doesn’t have to stop when KG Connects is over! Stay connected with our panelists:

Don’t forget: you can watch the entire webinar on your own time on demand.

Jan. 2021 Webinar: How Marketers Can Be Stewards To the Future

We just looked at the future of work, but the future isn’t just work. Marketers have a unique new world to conquer that requires moving beyond selling products and services. Learn how strategist, educator, and futurist Tameka Vasquez thinks we can all embed futuristic thinking into our strategies. Register here.

retail 4.0 gary hawkins webinar

Grocery’s Great Digital Revolution Through COVID-19

In November, we had the pleasure of being joined by Gary Hawkins, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail Technology (CART), on KG Connects. Hosted by Ketner Group CEO, Jeff Ketner, Gary walked listeners through what the digital evolution of grocery means for retailers and shoppers alike.

CART connects retail to new innovative capabilities through programs, events and education. Additionally, Gary is a highly sought-after strategic adviser and speaker, as well as a board member of companies that bring game-changing capabilities to market. He has written three books, Retail in the Age of i being the latest.

Below you can find a full summary of the webinar. If you’d like to view it on demand, you can check it out on Zoom here.

Retail 4.0: What the future of grocery retail entails

To set the stage, Gary and Jeff first discussed Gary’s latest whitepaper, “Retail 4.0: The Age of Metamorphosis” reveals the current and future changes expected in the grocery industry. There are three key themes Gary focuses on.

The first is the blurring of reality.

As Gary explained, “The world of digital, the online world is meeting and fusing together, melding with the actual physical world. As these things come together, it’s absolutely beginning to change and transform how we shop.”

retail 4.0 key themes

The majority of people use their phones while they shop, which, according to Gary, opens the door to not only incredible amounts of information, but also augmented reality. As augmented reality technology continues to improve, the in-store experience will begin to utilize it more and more. 

The second theme is the automation of business practices.

“Instead of a physical robot, we’re talking software robots that can begin to automate the decision-making process in a growing number of areas across the retail organization.”

The third theme is the opportunity for traditional retailers. Specifically, the ability for these retailers to, “play the exponential value creation game building out their digital networks.”

Who’s spearheading the future of grocery retail?

After the closer look into Retail 4.0, Jeff asked a rather simple question, “Who is doing it right?”

Who else but Amazon?

grocery sales change

“The new Amazon Fresh Farm…They’ve brought Alexa into the store now,” Gary described, “if a shopper has a question, they don’t have to seek out a clerk, they simply go to an Alexa station and ask their question.”

Which ties right back to the first key theme in Retail 4.0.

The pandemic’s impact on retail

When asked about the role of COVID-19 on the grocery industry, Gary had one word—Accelerant.

“Before [the pandemic], online grocery was maybe somewhere around one or 2% of sales. Literally overnight, retailers experienced a doubling or triple of online sales. I’ve talked to some retailers that saw even 5x or 6x of online sales growth. Simply exploded.”

Gary continued by explaining that the growth has plateaued, allowing retailers to reassess their systems and ensure they are prepared for the foreseeable future.

He also noted that, “for an industry that has almost resisted innovation and change for the past 100 years, when they need to, retailers can move really fast.”

One area where he saw this unusual speed was employee communication. Retailers, typically through apps, were able to push out training for sanitation, coordinate messaging and rapidly changing scheduling for every associate.

Grocery innovation on the horizon

Being at the forefront of new technologies, Gary sees a lot of interesting new startups enter the retail space. One area that he is watching with a keen eye goes right back to the first theme of Retail 4.0: augmented reality.

“I saw a stat recently from Gartner that over 100 million people are using AR primarily through their smartphones. I think we are simply going to see that explode in the next 12 months as Apple introduce their smart glasses,” Gary continued, “I’m really looking to that technology to transform the shopping experience.”

Marketing to the individual shopper

Augmented reality isn’t the only cutting edge. Gary also lauded AI and machine learning’s current and future potential, as well as its ability to power key business systems such as personalization.

“It’s helping to facilitate the automation of different decisions. For example, it is more efficient for a mass retailer to go to market on an individual customer basis than it is to go to market with traditional mass promotion.”

While it would seem that meeting the individual preferences of shoppers may be harder to achieve, Gary explained that, at scale, the 1-to-1 marketing tactics will, in-fact, smooth supply chain issues by removing the spikes in unit sales caused by mass promotion.

gary hawkins grocery evolution quote

While there are challenges to implementing this method, they aren’t caused by technology, but by retailers and brands themselves. Gary stated that retailers need to move away from over a century of thinking about how they do business.

This includes brand promotions as well.

 “When you shift to a true 1-to-1 model, that changes how brands pay retailers to promote their brands to shoppers on a mass scale.”

The 2021 digital retail experience, and beyond

The fact is, in twelve months, we may find a very different retail experience in grocery stores that are on the cutting-edge of technology. Online grocery has had a major impact on the physical store, and Gary expects to see stores become hybridized between a traditional grocery store and a micro-fulfillment center.

“Every retailer is now focused on making online retail profitable, and when you’re sending people up and down the isles to fulfill those orders, it’s tough to get profitable,” Gary said.

Gary is seeing a, “stampede,” toward the automation and micro-fulfillment side of grocery retail. He expects that stores will begin to move the micro-fulfillment center to the back of the store, while the front half focuses on fresh foods and customer experience. Experience being the operative word according to Gary.

“If that store can’t provide an experience to get shoppers out of their home and into the store, they won’t be there,” and because grocery delivery is so prominent, he explained that, “the days of utility shopping are gone.”

Breaking into the grocery technology market

Gary was asked, “how do new technology companies market themselves to retailers?” While the inability to meet face-to-face makes marketing a challenge, Gary offered a bit of advice.

“Understand the space, the retailer’s challenges and needs and then work to craft that vision and story about why the retailer should be talking to you. Retailers need to focus on the vision — what’s coming — because things are moving really, really fast.”

Regional grocers can utilize technology to keep up with major retailers like Walmart. According to Gary, “it’s not about access to the technology, it’s about can that regional retailers change their culture? Can they move faster? Deploy things faster? Can they change their processes and how they think about their business?”

Missed digital grocxery webinar

Hear it direct from Gary and sign up for the next KG Connects

If you’d like to watch the whole webinar, you can watch it on demand anytime.

The last one for 2020: Where in the H*LL Does the Future of Work Go From Here?”

As we wrap up 2020, we’re looking toward 2021 and how work will change even further than it has over the past year. Join Carolyn Birsky, Daniel Oppong and Sterling Hawkins as we dive deep into how to maintain a culture, recruit talent and keep some kind of normalcy all while remote. We look forward to seeing you! Register here for free.

Remote work

We Were Remote, Before Remote Was Cool

When it came to the topic of remote work and how Ketner Group has addressed it over the years – I immediately thought of the 1981 hit country song, “I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool,” sung by Barbara Mandrell.

In it, Mrs. Mandrell talks about how she listened to music from the Grand Ole Opry growing up while her friends were “digging on rock ‘n’ roll” and how everyone is now trying to be what she was back then.

When it comes to remote work at Ketner Group, this song seems spot on. We’ve been at this for quite some time – way before it was cool, and (now) necessary.

The way we were, and are: Ketner Group and our history of remote work

While I know that Ketner Group is not the only company to have instituted flexible work-from-home policies prior to the pandemic, our agency was founded with an emphasis on offering a good work-life balance for all employees.

That became very apparent to me in 2005 when my daughter was born. My two bosses at the time, Jeff Ketner and Terry Barnes, made it clear that my family was very important and that they were just fine with a work schedule that was best for me and my family.

"we were remote before it was cool (or frankly necessary)" pull quote

This philosophy started even before my tenure at Ketner Group, when Jeff launched the agency in 1990. He was to be at home every night for dinner, and if he needed to work from home, he would lug home a big laptop to finish any client work after his kids had gone to bed.

Thus, the roots of Ketner Group’s flexible work standards started to grow, and we’ve never looked back.

Our attitude toward working from home has always been simple: plan accordingly, meet your deadlines, and communicate with your team and managers of your schedule. In normal times, we always encouraged the team to be in the office as much as possible, but life happens.

Whether it be a doctor appointment across town, picking up kids from school, or being at home for the cable guy – working from home to take care of things is sometimes just easier. There are also times when one needs to work from home to concentrate on a big writing or research project – we’ve always encouraged that, too.

We’ve been everywhere

In recent years, Ketner Group has continued to walk the walk and talk the talk when it came to working remote – a sentiment I talked about last November in the Austin Business Journal. One of the most important things we value at the agency is trust, and we have a very high level of trust with all of our employees.

For example, we have had employees take extended vacations to Europe and Asia (learn more about Mariana’s time in Bali here), where they worked remote for a period of time while they were overseas and then take an additional two weeks off for vacation. A few years ago, one of our employees spent a year working from Ireland, and it worked out beautifully.

It is important to support these remote work options because we want our team to live their best lives, see the world and have amazing experiences.

W.O.R.K in the USA

Since March, our remote work game has been in overdrive – along with the rest of the world.

In fact, a global survey conducted by Gartner, Inc. found that 88% of business organizations all over the world mandated or encouraged all their employees to work from home when the COVID-19 virus started to spread at exponential rates.

team culture ketner group

The move to full-time remote work for the Ketner Group team was seamless, and again demonstrated how much we value and trust each of our employees. Not only is everyone currently working from their respective homes, but we have a few employees that have hit the open road in RVs to fully experience remote work life!

It’s been an adventure for all of us so far.

Our team is spread out across five states, but our productivity and company culture remain strong. The pandemic has been hard on all of us – professionally and personally – but we remain a strong and dedicated team because of the processes and work policies we put in place 30 years ago.

I look forward to when we can all be in an office together again. Until then, we’ll be seeing you on a Zoom somewhere.

Spooky and Uncertain Times: Halloween 2020

Spooky and Uncertain Times: Halloween 2020

When you rest your heavy October eyes, what do you see? Smiling jack o’ lanterns? Casper the Friendly Ghost? Bowls of delicious candy? If so, consider yourself lucky….

Those of us at the Ketner Group have been disturbed by an image of pure terror as we’ve slipped into our slumbers… skeletons filled with spiderwebs, ghouls, goblins, broken dreams, all dancing under the FULL MOON on HALLOWEEN. That’s right folks — a Halloween full moon. Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any more 2020, the moon rears its spooky glow on the 31st of October for a Q4 scare.

We’re not even talking the friendly Harvest Moon that Neil Young so lovingly crooned(?) about. This will be a Hunter’s Moon according to the Farmer’s Almanac. And while we’ll all be hunting for candy, the question we must all ask is… who will be hunting for us?

To answer that sinister question in an obvious way, it will be retailers hunting for our wallets as the holiday season approaches. But what does this Halloween’s retail landscape look like? Allow your mouse to be the planchette on this Ouija board of projections as we conjure some insights.

The boo normal

While last year was a graveyard smash, Halloween 2020 will obviously look a little different amid COVID-19.

With the CDC offering some safe trick or treating guidelines and alternatives, thankfully trick or treating is still on the table. I say that as a 26-year-old who definitely will not be trying to fill that pillowcase this year dressed as a ninja (mask included).

Still, according to the National Retail Federation, more than 75% of consumers say COVID-19 is impacting their plans to celebrate Halloween, with overall participation down to 58%. “Plans for parties, trick-or-treating, handing out candy and visiting haunted houses have all dropped, due largely to the fact that some activities do not easily adhere to social distancing.”

NRF expects this drop in participation to reduce the holiday’s spending to $8.05 billion, down from $8.78 billion in 2019. However, those who celebrating plan to spend an average of $92.12, up from $86.27 in 2019.

Ultimately, much remains uncertain for retailers this year as shoppers wait until the last minute to decide if and how they’ll celebrate. “It could either be the worst year we’ve ever had or the best year we’ve ever had,” said Tom Fallenstein, CEO of HalloweenCostumes.com, in a Marketplace interview.

Retailers and brands making a social media splash

With everyone grasping for a hero these days, a 12-foot-tall leader has emerged. One of the biggest celebrities of Halloween has been Home Depot’s “12 ft. Giant-Sized Skeleton with LifeEyes.” This hip decoration went viral on Twitter and TikTok, inspiring humerus content and selling out a month before Halloween by Oct. 1.

If you’re still interested in experiencing a life with this decoration, Home Depot uses AR to let shoppers see how their home could be haunted enhanced by this big guy. We’ve seen this capability with furniture in the past, but never has it spurred more gasps. Visit the product page on your phone to experience it for yourself (disclaimer: Ketner Group is NOT responsible for any frights or scares the user may experience).

As it goes on corporate Twitter, other brands hopped on this bandwagon as quick as they could.

NRF Quote Halloween 2020

A digital Halloween & holiday season

This clinging to an unlikely idol makes sense with America looking for new ways to celebrate Halloween this year. In fact, 17% of NRF survey respondents say they plan to celebrate virtually.

In a year of digital and e-commerce explosion, Halloween may not even be the beginning of the holiday season. Amazon Prime Day, having moved from its usual July date and taking place Oct. 13-14, is expected by many to be the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. According to Business Insider, “Amazon Prime Day 2020 will be unlike any other since its debut five years ago. Amid the backdrop of a pandemic and recessionary headwinds, this year’s event promises significant changes that will shake up the entire retail landscape heading into the holidays.”

Prime Day is expected to generate nearly $10 billion in sales worldwide, according to eMarketer.

Time goes on, but the frights remain

There are plenty of uncertainties in this world, now more than ever (to give you some spooky, early-pandemic commercial flashback). Cities are calling off Halloween events, states are putting forth guidelines for celebrating and All Hollow’s Eve retail projections are trending downward but still TBD.

Still, there will be plenty of fun to be had, whether digitally, socially distanced or alone on the couch slugging Reese’s Crunches (a sandwich consisting of two Crunch bars, with a Reese’s in the middle).

In this uncertain world, however, we can all take pleasure in knowing that, like every year, Halloween will be extremely spooky…now more than ever amid a FULL HUNTER’S MOON. 

retail re-emergence post-covid

“Retail Re-Emergence” in a Post-COVID World

For the August 2020 edition of our KG Connects webinar series, we hosted internationally known retail experts Manolo Almagro and Ben Gauthier from Q Division. They are experts in commerce and technology, working with startups and brands worldwide to promote and deploy emerging retail tech and take advantage of key trends. They joined us for a conversation on what to expect as the retail world resets, recovers and advances in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn.

COVID-19 creates an opportunity for retailers

While “post-Covid” may be overly optimistic to say at this point, retailers and technology companies need to know what to prioritize and where to focus to shore up infrastructure while the “opportunity” of closed or limited store capacity, so to speak, still exists.

While big box retailers including Target, Lowe’s and Best Buy have performed exceedingly well in recent months, mall-anchor retailers such as Macy’s, Nordstrom’s and Kohl’s are facing big challenges. In all cases, most of the response to the pandemic was cemented well before 2020, as they deployed or failed to deploy the right technology infrastructure, customer engagement strategies and assortments that served customer needs.

changing-consumer-behavior

A big part of that is that the way people shop for regular items – from groceries to back-to-school items to holiday shopping – is changing. Of course, that was true before the pandemic and those changes have accelerated tremendously since.

Retailers must go virtual to meet changing consumer behavior

Just like the way we communicate and entertain ourselves as communities have gone fully virtual, retail has to as well. And it’s benefited the big retailers who have pushed innovative solutions to sticky problems and punished the laggards hanging onto old glory. 

As foot traffic in physical stores continues to slowly but steadily regain momentum, it’s essential to remember that it’s human nature to be social. Shopping in person is part of that, but in a “post”-pandemic world, the digital influence can’t be ignored.

Of course, the way technology is deployed needs to be strategic and what works for one retailer would be foolish for another. That said, technology investments shouldn’t be patchwork, hole-filling remedies. Retailers need to truly reconsider how their business model plays with their consumers’ wishes – now and into the future – and respond in kind.

Technology is ready to power future retail success

Ben and Manolo took us through some of the most important innovations. Of course, the pattern will be different for everyone, but what’s true for all is that a service or process that was once radical may quickly become foundational, and what was once foundational may seems suddenly secondary.

retail-post-covid

One stat that stood out was that 75% of shoppers have tried a new shopping behavior since COVID-19 struck, according to McKinsey. And according to IBM, we’ve advanced up to five years ahead in e-commerce because of the fundamental need.

For example, curbside was a forced behavior among most grocers. A somewhat slow-to-innovate industry with customers who aren’t always highly tech savvy, curbside quickly became a lifeline and is now very popular across demographics.

When we look at restaurants, we also learn a big lesson on loyalty and owning the customer relationship fully even when launching new services. Restaurants obviously took a huge hit. But some sectors, such as pizza, did well. They were structured to thrive on quick delivery and had the ecosystem in place.

For others, the fees were so high on partnering with a service like Uber Eats that they struggled to really take advantage of the profit those services bring. And when the customer interaction with the restaurant goes through the app, brand identity and value take a hit, too.

That said, consumer loyalty across retail segments quickly shifted from an enjoyable in-person experience or goods rewards program to more fundamental needs, and availability became paramount for driving loyalty.  Now, success is all about delivering those new services with efficiency and transparency, and providing great results with availability, quality, speed and consistency.

How to identify the best technology application

Want to learn about the specific technology applications that will take center stage as retailers look to own their customer relationships while reimagining what retail experiences mean to their brand? Watch the webinar to learn more about:

  • Customer experience
    • BOPIS
    • Walk-up, curbside, drive-through
    • Cashierless/unattended stores
  • Home commerce
    • E-commerce
    • Virtual shopping / telepresence
    • Home delivery partners
  • Customer-centric convenience
    • Buy now pay later
    • Contactless transactions
    • Loyalty = availability
  • Operations and supply chain
    • ML demand forecasting
    • Micro-warehousing
    • Autonomous everything and robotics

Next up: discussing inclusive communication

It’s also critical that no business loses sight of the power of communication to develop and maintain strong communities. In September, we’ll host Kia Jarmon for a conversation on The Art of Inclusive Communication on how to do just that. We hope to see you there!

catch covid-19 retail webinar on demand
retail evolution 2020

Retail Evolution 2020: Pandemic Edition

Like much of the U.S., non-essential retailers closed their doors in mid-March. The whispers returned and eventually reached a crescendo, “The ‘Retail Apocalypse’ has arrived!” We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the ‘Retail Apocalypse’ is not here.

One more time for the cheap seats in the back (remember those?), THE ‘RETAIL APOCALYPSE’ IS NOT HERE. In fact, the ‘Retail Apocalypse’ is never happening. So let’s remove that from our vocabulary and put the rumors to bed, once and for all. Instead, let’s talk about what’s really happening — a retail evolution.

Like everything else in 2020, the retail industry has been faced with a new normal. Retailers who have failed to evolve, have had to make difficult decisions, from closing stores to declaring bankruptcy and even all out business closures.

Meanwhile, many retailers have thrived through the pandemic. In fact, Target reported that its curbside pickup service, Drive Up, grew 700% in Q2. 700%! How? Because again and again, Target has transformed to meet the changing needs of shoppers. With that, let’s dive deeper into the 2020 retail evolution.

The essentials

While many retailers temporarily shuttered to comply with state and local mandates, essential retailers like grocers, pharmacies and convenience stores, remained open. These retailers faced new challenges, from supply chain shortages to daunting volumes of online grocery orders.

However, most adapted and emerged as heroes. With digital grocery sales reaching a an all-time high of $7.2 billion in June, grocers have accepted that many of the forced changes of 2020 are here to stay. Grocers and their solution providers alike have worked hand-in-hand to rapidly evolve and meet shoppers’ needs as we continue to stay home.

essential retailers

Amazon’s 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods ignited a fire in grocers, and many began examining and implementing much needed technologies, from AI-enabled supply chains to digital grocery solutions. No doubt, they could have done more to be prepared for 2020 but no one anticipated a pandemic.

Grocers recognize the need for AI-enabled and digital technologies now more than ever. As a result, they will continue to digitally transform to address the fundamental shift in how consumers shop for everyday essentials.

Digital realities

Across the industry, retailers who have failed to embrace digital transformation have suffered immeasurably in 2020. On the other hand, forward-thinking solution providers who have been waiting in the wings for their heyday, and the retailers adopting those solutions, are reaping the rewards. Many digital solutions, like virtual fit and live shopping, that once seemed futuristic are now necessary to retail survival.

retail tech solution future

From our daily conversations with solution providers, we’ve seen that retailers are clamoring to adapt new technologies ahead of the holiday season. Furthermore, consumers are adopting these new omni-channel shopping options as part of their ongoing routines.

The retail evolution is here to stay

Call it what you will — trade, retail, digital commerce — the retail industry will continue to evolve. It’s here to stay and has been for thousands of years. Yes, it will change but so will the rest of the world, and retailers and shoppers alike will adapt.

Speaking of changes in the retail industry, be sure to register for August’s KG Connects webinar, “‘Retail Re-Emergence’ in a Post-COVID World,” with Q Division.

kg connects august 2020
the future of b2b media

The Future of B2B Media

The future of B2B media is a topic worthy of a book. It’s a huge industry with a lot of moving parts, but there are a few trends that stand out to me as defining the future of the industry more strongly than any others.

In general, beyond just B2B, the most successful media companies have the full attention and trust of their audience. Regardless of what they promise – information, entertainment, perspective – they thrive when they capture time and attention better than anyone else.

In my last blog on the future of journalism, I dug into the monetization challenges facing online publishers battling the two-headed monster of Big Tech and the COVID pandemic. While I am confident that the best publishers will benefit, emerging from this inflection point stronger than ever, others are at risk of defeat.

As PR and communications professionals, it’s important for us to consider what the future of B2B media looks like, and how the roles and powerful voices within it will evolve over time.

The short answer is, media companies are finding new ways to stay competitive, while individual experts and corporate brands are simultaneously taking on characteristics of media companies to survive and thrive in the attention economy. We see it playing out something like this:

B2B media consolidates

In a market where revenue disappears overnight, only a few players will remain strong—mirroring the media industry at large. We’ll see the most trusted names in each market consolidate their influence by bringing in the lion’s share of the reduced available revenue.

Those who were already struggling will have to close. The big players will capitalize on the opportunity by investing in new services and staff who help them further monetize their attention share. They have the time and resources to wait out the storm.

Publications monetize new services

“Successful media companies have to have two things. They have to control their own distribution and they have to have their own programming. People that don’t have both either have to rectify that or go out of business,” said Michael Bloomberg, as shared in a great Twitter thread on Bloomberg’s experience.

With big tech platforms like Facebook and Google taking a larger role in distributing the media’s content, publications must quickly build out their own distribution methods. They need to shift from relying on search and social to reaching their own audiences where they are.

We talk about it all the time with our retail tech clients – retailers must be everywhere their shoppers are. It’s no different in media.

In terms of programming, we’re already seeing the most well-respected B2B publications scale services well beyond online and print articles. They host webinars, conduct sponsored research, curate multiple regular newsletters, create video, run conferences (and will find ways to take leadership roles in virtual events), award programs, and more. Those who continue this content mix and find ways to own the distribution will come out on top.

Independent experts change the game

Adding new services that go well beyond reporting the news isn’t the only reason the definition of ‘media company’ is changing.

New content creators are entering the mix, often without affiliation to any media brand. They’re not in it to compete for ad dollars; their currency is attention. They might be company executives, consultants, investors, academics or industry analysts. As long as they have deep expertise and a platform to share thoughts, they can play the game.

These high-relevance industry experts and brands are the thought leaders and entertainers that news organizations can never be. They can take positions that exist outside of pure fact; they can challenge conventional knowledge and accumulate loyal followers.

Social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube have given SMEs free platforms to become the go-to experts in any domain. They provide a “boots on the ground” sense of reporting objective truth.

influencers aren't truth-tellers

What’s more, these influencers don’t repute themselves as objective truth-tellers. That makes it easy for them to say what they think and use personality and entertainment to elevate their spot in the intellectual hierarchy.

These SMEs will challenge publications for the title of the most reliable and influential voices in the industry. As they do, they will continue to monetize their position. They will offer their own secondary services – selling products, services or time without the overhead or scrutiny that media companies deal with. As this proves an increasingly powerful sales tool, more players will enter the field.

Corporate brands double down on ‘content marketing’

The industry’s savviest entities won’t be left behind in this paradigm, either.

Digitally intelligent and highly engaging brand “publications” will increasingly become entertainment hubs for their industries. This will take the form of both robust blogs and brand-agnostic, semi-independent media entities.

publications become entertainment

Without the need to supplement content with advertising revenue, they will build platforms that offer cutting-edge storytelling experiences.

Funded by corporate profits, they can invest heavily in being at the forefront of every industry conversation. Eventually, corporate profits will help them be among the first to deploy new storytelling technologies such as augmented or virtual reality, or 360-degree video.

In the attention economy, pervasive brand awareness and affinity leads to sales of their core product or service offering. Their media platform can operate at a net-negative cost and still drive significant gains in corporate profit.

Communications professionals take control of audience engagement

Every company today, in some way, is (or should be) a media company. Everyone has an online presence, competes for views and attention, and wants to be a key voice in their industry.

As B2B media, corporate, and individual players compete for attention, they’ll overlap and collaborate more; we’ll continue to see the splintering of long-held industry roles.

But we can’t just wait and see how the future of B2B media affects our approach to brand building. The new market context demands that we also take control of our own content creation and distribution. We all need to be media companies now.

Do you want to propel your company’s growth by adopting a media company mindset, but don’t know where to start?

We’re offering a free 30-minute conversation to help get you started. We’d love to brainstorm with you! Just get in touch.

woman at laptop planning PR and marketing

2020 PR Planning, Take Two: What to Do Now

2020 PR planning was derailed for many companies far too early this year. The global pandemic forced companies to scrap carefully laid business and marketing plans and adjust at lightning speed to constantly changing conditions. We’re now at the mid-point of 2020, and the question is: what comes next for marketers?

Despite the ravages of the coronavirus, we’re seeing some signs of optimism among our clients. They are focused on the future and have moved quickly to pivot their products and services to meet the uncertainties of the post-pandemic world. Companies are rethinking business models, looking for new opportunities to help their customers succeed, and aligning their marketing and PR plans accordingly.

So, how can you take your bearings and set a new marketing course for the remainder of the year?

Here are some initiatives that are a must for every company and marketer.

Re-examine your brand proposition.

COVID-19 put a pause on business as usual, but many companies are using this time to re-examine their brand proposition and the value they bring to their customers. Companies are asking if their value proposition in the pre-pandemic world still makes sense as we face the uncertainties of a “new normal” that is still taking shape.

For the B2B technology companies we work with, the challenges their customers face are sharply different now. How can their solutions help companies in a world that’s constantly shifting, and how should their messaging change to reflect that?

Forward-looking companies are taking time to re-examine their 2020 PR planning.

This process includes:

  • Re-evaluating messaging across channels – making sure that their messaging around products and services remains relevant;
  • Conducting research that helps them understand trend changes;
  • Rolling out new messages through PR initiatives, website relaunches, social media and owned content.

Innovate fearlessly.

If there was ever a time to roll out new strategies, this is it.

Some changes will be born out of necessity—the overnight rise of virtual conferences and trade shows, for example. There is also increased emphasis on content marketing, social media and earned media.

We’ve quickly made changes here at Ketner Group, too.

When business-as-usual ground to a halt in March, we launched a new webinar series, “KG Connects”. In doing so, we built a new avenue to help clients, partners and other companies explore fresh marketing ideas. It also helped us reach new audiences and showcase our expertise.

At the same time, we started monthly office hours for clients only. The private setting promotes candid conversation about their unique PR and marketing challenges. We’ve used this time to build closer relationships with our clients, and they’ve reacted positively.

Focus on the fundamentals.

Innovation is critical, but don’t lose sight of the fundamental PR and marketing activities that are important to your brand.

This is not the time to go dark on press announcements and corporate communications. These initiatives are essential for securing the media coverage you need to get the attention of customers, prospects and investors.

Are you announcing a major new product or making another significant company announcement in the second half of 2020? Be sure to check out Adrienne Newcomb’s recent blog on the necessary steps for a great product or business launch.

Reallocate your unspent marketing budget.

Remember all that budget you had earmarked for events later this year? If at all possible, use it—don’t lose it.

The cancellation of SXSW early this year was just the first of a wave of event cancellations in 2020. Many events planned for early 2021 will likely be rescheduled, too. You can reallocate that budget into marketing initiatives that will keep up your visibility. We’re actively working with our clients to help them do that, and we’d be glad to offer our strategic advice.

The key thing to keep in mind for marketing now is simple: don’t stop.

Your customers and prospects are looking to you to provide expert guidance in turbulent times. So, it’s critical to communicate with them through carefully planned and executed campaigns. Take this opportunity to re-examine your brand, innovate with new ideas and keep up your PR presence.

These are the kinds of challenges that can bring out the best in our companies and marketing efforts. With these initiatives, your updated 2020 PR planning will help you showcase that.

Broadcast Media Relations During COVID-19

Note: We published this blog post in preparation for Justin Goldstein’s webinar on broadcasting. Since publishing, the webinar is live, and you can catch it on demand!


Broadcast media is booming as the Coronavirus pandemic restrictions only begin to loosen and everyone searches for sources that can provide reliable and timely information. Consider, recent findings from Nielsen show that 83% of consumers are listening to as much if not more radio than before the pandemic.

Clearly, if you’re looking to secure television, radio or podcast placements, now is the time to do so. But, be aware that producers and reporters are just like us and mainly working from home due to the virus. A refined approach is more important than ever to break through your contact’s inbox and earn their interest in an interview. 

Here are a few recommendations to consider:

Provide Key Assets Upfront

Are you in the process of developing assets like b-roll, headshots and bios for your spokesperson(s)? If so, hold on pitching until you have these elements so that you can include them in your first pitch to producers and reporters.

These contacts are sifting through hundreds of emails while trying to coordinate interviews via platforms like Zoom and Skype that they normally don’t work with. There’s a good chance that if a reporter opens your email and doesn’t see at least one or two of these assets listed, he or she will delete your email and move on to the next opportunity. If for no other reason, moving on reduces the stress of sending a follow-up email to ask questions. 

How can you best incorporate this information into your pitch?

  1. In your subject line, note that you’re offering an interview and these assets.
  2. Provide a link to download your b-roll and headshots via Dropbox or a similar platform to avoid your message going to spam.
  3. Include your spokesperson(s) bio towards the end of your pitch so that it doesn’t take away from the story that you’re trying to tell at the top. 

Use Your Voice

Phone pitching is critical in broadcast media relations, especially during COVID. Newsrooms are overwhelmed with pitches, coordinating segments with their producers from afar and receiving updates on Coronavirus-related stories from the public. So, the chances of them responding to email outreach are less than the print/online reporters that you might be more familiar with. 

It will likely be harder to reach reporters and producers directly. Your next step is to call a network or station’s assignment desk and speak with an assignment editor. They are well-positioned to coordinate interviews or connect you with a contact that can do so. You can also leave a voicemail on a producer or reporter’s phone. They often check to make sure that they’re not missing any important messages while away from the office.

Be Flexible

Many broadcast contacts are doing their best to adapt to navigate the pressures of virtual planning meetings and interviews. While you can certainly share your spokesperson(s) platform preference for connecting, try to be flexible.

If a reporter asks to connect via Skype and your spokesperson(s) is hesitant to pursue because they’re not used to the platform, try to schedule a quick training session. Get them to feel confident and comfortable going into an interview rather than push back on the reporter. 

Consider creating video-conference meeting invites for reporters and producers and offering your willingness to do so in your pitch. This removes one extra step in coordinating an interview that they don’t have to manage.

Be aware that if you’re staffing interviews on Zoom video, your video box will appear, so it would be best to confirm with your contact that he or she can have their team edit you out before finalizing their segment. 

Broadcast media is a powerful tool that should be leveraged for your media relations program. But, it’s crucial to approach your contacts in a strategic manner to garner their interest. Your results depend on it.

Attend June’s KG Connects Webinar to learn more

Want to hear directly from Justin about the state of broadcast media and both evergreen and timely best practices for securing coverage?

Join us on Friday, June 26 at 10:00 a.m. ET for the next edition of KG Connects! Learn more and register here.

About Justin Goldstein

justin-goldstein-press-records

Justin is president and founder of Press Record Communications, a strategic media relations agency with expertise in broadcast media. He is an award-winning media relations pro, voted an Exceptional Under 35 by the Public Relations Society of America. He has developed and implemented broadcast media relations programs that have supported clients like General Motors, Best Buy and the Clinton Global Initiative.

In recent years, Justin has coordinated event broadcast press campaigns for the Consumer Electronics Show, Detroit Auto Show and Conference of Mayors. Justin also served as morning drive producer at WRHU-FM, New York’s number one non-commercial radio station. His work has been recognized by PR News, PR Newswire and the Hermes Creative Awards.