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.
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.
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.
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.
For example, Greg Alvo, CEO and founder of Ordergroove, launched the Relationship Commerce company in 2010. At the time, Amazon Prime and the Subscribe & Save program were in their infancy. But Greg recognized an opportunity in the market and had a dream of making consumer’s lives easier through subscription retail.
Ten years later, Greg’s vision has become a necessity as consumers look for reliable ways to get household essentials. According to Ordergroove, retailers and brands with subscription programs have seen a 40% in new enrollments as a result of COVID-19.
Digital capabilities like reoccurring subscription models are a win for consumers and retailers alike. From our daily conversations with solution providers, we’ve seen that retailers are clamoring to adapt such 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.
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.
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.
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.
The future of journalism will be defined by two parallel forces: algorithms and trust.
Online media has been in constant evolution since print newspapers and periodicals first moved online.
Industry innovation since then has mainly delivered new ways to cover and share news: podcasts; webinars; video; social media.
But the non-stop battle for readers and revenue never disrupted the fundamental business model of publishing. Outlets continue to generate revenue through either subscription-based or ad-supported coverage.
More recently, powerful new forces have put this model into question – one slowly and one suddenly. The response will define who maintains their positions as the gatekeepers of information moving forward.
Big Tech is poaching ad revenues
One major financial burden for digital publishers is Big Tech. Google and Facebook, in particular, have built their own news distribution and advertising platforms that offer larger audiences and more personalization options.
It’s a natural if not inevitable evolution. Newspapers and periodicals curated and distributed great writing to a broader audience than the writers could reach alone. Big Tech simply does the same at a greater scale. It curates the best of the best for the biggest audience.
The publishing industry model has always financially rewarded the organizations with the biggest audiences and best ROI for advertisers. Big tech now wears that crown.
In response, many of the biggest publishers are lobbying to require tech companies to pay for the news they use. This would provide some relief for content producers but doesn’t address the competitive disadvantage of the model itself. It’s a band-aid option that prevents the industry from addressing larger issues at hand.
Money flowed from inefficient print newspapers to online publications because it delivered a better user experience and better ROI for advertisers. Even if regulators force Big Tech to share revenue with publishers, the same forces will continue to disrupt the online news industry from within.
The pandemic effect
The throes of a pandemic offer a fascinating glimpse into the true state and future of media and journalism.
Decision-makers and stakeholders need answers, guidance and insight into the factors influencing their livelihoods and lifestyles. That’s why many reliable publishers are experiencing huge surges in web traffic and engagement.
In a vacuum, this would be a harbinger of a revenue windfall.
Ultimately, a protracted pandemic and its economic fallout will accelerate the trends already underway. Ownership groups will consolidate risk, stack premier writing talent within fewer publications and double down on making sure those few outlets maintain profitability – at the expense of the rest.
The industry will get more top-heavy.
A symbiotic relationship
Although the pandemic will continue inflicting pain on the publishing industry, it eventually will come to an end. Similarly, Google and Facebook aren’t in the business of putting media out of business. In fact, it’s the worst thing they could do.
These tech platforms can’t – and don’t want to – create their own content. They prefer to identify and elevate the best content for each audience. Their algorithms do just that. And that’s why they’re so successful.
In a way, big tech is bringing rigid order to the Wild West of online publishing. They are the new gatekeepers of ‘good journalism’. And for better or worse, they don’t define winners subjectively. Behavior and preference data and search ranking algorithms leave no room for those who don’t follow the rules.
The role of trust in an open internet
There is another important factor working in publishers’ favor: platforms have issues of their own when it comes to policing their pages. Facebook especially has been battered by the fake new phenomenon.
In an unregulated and open internet, trust comes at a premium. Ethical publishers will have a monopoly on trust that advertisers and brands will gravitate towards.
This does not mean that all online publishers will recoup the revenues they pulled in before big tech stole the show. Rather, well-defined and highly loyal audiences will continue to rely on digital publishers who exemplify those characteristics.
A new playing field defines the future of journalism
The importance and role of high-value content are the same as they have ever been. In fact, with questions about fake news and overt bias running rampant, it’s more critical to media sustainability than ever.
Publishers are just operating on a new playing field where new referees have reset the rules.
This game, like any game, will have winners and losers. But the players who create the best content for their audience’s needs will forever have a key role in defining the future of journalism. And readers and advertisers will reward them for it.
Like nearly anyone offering a few words of reflection on the Coronavirus phenomenon, I’m far from an expert on the matter. I have tried for weeks to write this blog, and every two days the situation has changed so rapidly that I’ve had to essentially start over.
While I can’t offer any advice on how to assuage the public health, mental health, or economic threat this pandemic has affected, the process of learning, acknowledging, adapting and persevering that these few months have mandated from all of us is something I believe we should all take a moment to consider and to find great value in.
Like many, my first connection to Covid-19 was watching the virus
take grip of China from the (physically) safe haven of Twitter, wondering along
with everyone else whether what we were seeing was an authoritarian overreaction
to assert political power or a global crisis exploding before our eyes.
When it burst through the border and put Italy under
lockdown, I felt the emotional stress of being limited to FaceTime updates from
my brother living 45 minutes from the country’s outbreak center with his wife
and two kids – who as of this writing, we still understand to be healthy and
When SXSW along with the City of Austin – where I live – canceled the event last minute, it felt like the most significant public acknowledgment that this crisis wasn’t just a blip on the radar or concern of only a foreign ‘other’.
Now, as we hunker down with our frozen pizzas, 1000-piece puzzles
and the most organized junk drawers the world has ever seen, it’s provided the
time to contextualize the moment and think about where we go from here and the
lessons we should take with us.
The benefit of being proactive
While I’m bummed that SXSW was canceled, it has proven to
already be the right decision. The same goes for our clients who have had to
cancel or postpone their customer events at their own expense.
Some things are just bigger than the bottom line, and I
applaud the companies and executives being proactive about their broader
long-term role in society even when they do so to their own short-term
detriment. Their foresight and compassion had a massive effect on our ability
to dampen the barrage.
It’s not always about being first to market with a new
gadget or service. It’s not about being a fast follower. It’s not about taking
credit as a pioneer in your field. The value comes from being quick to adapt
and change to new conditions, for the betterment of all.
Flash vs substance
Having worked so closely with retail technology vendors for
the past four years, it’s been very clear that most of the emphasis for
building a modern retail business has been on customer engagement. When
engaged, shoppers are likely to take desired actions.
We think about personalized marketing, same-day shipping, on-demand
merchandise and endless aisle assortments. We talk about hyper-localization
within a global economy and dynamic pricing in stores. It all sounds pretty
wonderful, and it is.
But engagement doesn’t come from an innovation lab alone. It
comes from personal understanding and connection to shoppers. For example, personalized
marketing can only be done once you build real relationships with customers and
learn enough about them to know what they want, when they want it.
If you can’t deliver on a shopper’s fundamental needs, all
the work you’ve done to create new conveniences and ‘engagement’ is for naught.
Relationships and values are everything
What we’ve seen in recent weeks emphasizes this point. Families
are paying more attention to grandparents than ever before. Businesses are
finding ways to create more flexible, human-centric employee schedules. Dogs
are getting more walks and parents are spending more playtime with their kids.
In times of crisis, we gravitate towards comfort and connection. We are drawn towards truth and fulfilling our fundamental needs. We realize more clearly what matters to us and what has been a distraction. And we see that much of our time and attention is dominated by clutter.
But who we are and what we mean to others is eternal.
When considering the future of business – all other
considerations of financial management, product value, and bailouts aside – I’m
sure that the companies who fare best and emerge from this with momentum will
be those that have always emphasized building a brand and a culture of
authenticity and responsibility, and actively cultivated customer and employee loyalty
above all else.
Because when everything else gets called into question, our identity, our values – and what others know of them – are all you can rely on. It’s not only in times of stress that they matter, but it’s as good a time as any to realize the depth of their impact.
A most helpful Covid-19 legal resource:
Our client, national law firm Foley
& Lardner, is offering a terrific
library of support for companies navigating the complex legal ramifications of
business disruption. If you’d like to get in touch with them, let us know!
Influencer marketing is a relatively new phenomenon. Even though this trend only recently burst onto the scene, it has taken over the industry. Successful influencer marketing today is completely different from when it first started and it will continue to change as time goes on.
Early Influencer Marketing
During the early stages of influencer marketing, all the focus and investment centered on the celebrities and influencers with the largest following. Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian were pioneers of the influencer marketing industry and continue to rake in money for it. In fact, an article from US Weekly discovered that “brands will pay up to $500,000 for a campaign on Kim Kardashian’s Instagram.” As the trend has grown everyone wants a piece of the action.
Influencer marketing has exploded, and it’s not stopping soon. In a report from Influencer Marketing Hub, influencer marketing has the potential to be worth $10 billion by 2020. What’s more incredible is that the value to brands is sky-high. For every one dollar spent on influencer marketing the average company generates $5.20 in earned media coverage, and some companies are even making $18 for every $1 spent. Influencer marketing is too big to ignore.
How has influencer marketing changed?
Celebrities were the original influencers, but that has since changed. One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen is the rise of niche influencers. There are beauty influencers, fashion influencers, lifestyle influencers and many more. These niche influencers are more valuable to brands than any celebrity. The reason being, celebrities become influencers because they are famous, but niche influencers become famous because they create content their audience loves, and their audience trusts their opinion.
Trust is the key word in that last sentence. As influencer marketing has grown consumers have grown to trust niche influencers more than they trust celebrities. In fact, “70% of teenage YouTube subscribers relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities and 60% of YouTube subscribers would follow advice on what to buy from their favorite [content] creator over their favorite TV or movie personality.”
Beyond the change in who influencers trust, we have also seen a massive shift how influencers do their job and push content to their audience. Instagram is the dominant app for influencer marketing, but other apps like YouTube continue to grow and foster a larger presence. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and receives roughly 30M visits every single day. People watch almost 500 million hours of videos on YouTube each day!
We know people spend a lot of time on YouTube. And younger generations trust YouTubers more than traditional celebs. But does that mean YouTube influencers are effective? Yes, yes, it does. A study from Carat found that 86% of the top 200 beauty videos came from influencers. Across ten niche categories tested, working with a YouTube influencer increased consumers’ purchase intent.
Where are we going?
Influencer marketing as we know it could very well disappear just as quickly as it burst onto the scene. Businesses must realize that too much content isn’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, the 2019 State of Influencer survey discovered that 46% of influencers have at least seven clients.
The authenticity and trust influencers enjoy can fade quickly. The influx of content has caused many consumers to ask themselves, “Is this just another advertisement or an actual opinion?” In a report from Forrester, marketing professionals expect “people will ascribe no more trust to influencers’ branded content than to brands themselves.”
Influencer marketing started with celebrities, then it became niche influencers, so where do marketers go from here? The answer, micro-influencers. Scrunch describes a micro-influencer as “someone who has an audience with a follower base of over 2,000, but less than 50,000 on a particular social media channel, usually with a focussed passion, topic or niche market.”
Just as followers are more trustworthy of niche influencers than celebrities, consumers are more trustworthy micro-influencers than larger niche influencers. Micro-influencers have personal connections with their followers. This allows consumers to have a lot of trust in them. Micro-influencers have higher engagement rates and are actively working for your brand by answering questions and responding to comments. This goes a long way towards creating greater trust between your product and their audience.
The role of influencers is all about leveraging trust and authenticity to achieve an end-goal. The big celebrities may have millions of followers and millions of likes on their posts. But for influencer marketing, that may not be the best practice. Instead, try to find people that have a strong rapport with their audience. This organic connection is what customers today want to see.
Artificial intelligence is the new, new thing — or is it?
While seemingly every software solution touts the wonders of AI, it’s only now
starting to deliver on the promises that have been made for decades.
My agency worked for Texas Instruments early in my career, and AI was among the key technologies we focused on. We produced a quarterly newsletter and successfully pitched stories to the media on the topic, wrote press releases on solutions built on it and developed a case study on one of TI’s early adopters, Campbell Soup. TI and Campbell’s developed an expert system (an early AI application) to capture the knowledge of valuable engineers that were nearing retirement. Without the system, that knowledge could have vanished forever.
Unfortunately, early applications of AI were ahead of their time, and the market faded away for several decades. Why did it take so long for the technology to catch on? Here are some personal observations from someone who was captivated by the promise of AI three decades ago.
Early AI solutions were expensiveand slow.
Early artificial intelligence systems used a language called LISP that required specialized, expensive computing systems. Additionally, the limitations of existing systems (slow and limited processors, as well as a lack of storage), constrained early PC versions of AI software. The computing power necessary for robust AI applications simply didn’t exist. However, as predicted by Moore’s Law, computing power doubled every two years as the cost fell — ultimately making it possible to deliver the raw computing power required for AI. But that alone couldn’t solve the problem.
The cloud didn’t exist.
Can you imagine (or remember) a time when the Internet didn’t exist? In the early-to-mid 80’s, it was still nearly a decade away from becoming a household word.
That meant there was no way to deliver AI or any other applications on the cloud, because there was no cloud! And since most such applications today are delivered on cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, which can provide thousands of processors on demand for AI applications, there was no way for it to reach its full potential.
Storage was limited.
A lack of data storage was yet another limiting factor. The first 1 GB hard drive was introduced in 1980, and the era of terabytes, petabytes and exabytes was decades away. Without immense amounts of data storage, it’s impossible to house all the data required for robust AI applications.
Thankfully, that’s all changed, and we’re entering the beginnings of the golden age of artificial intelligence. As real-world AI applications continue entering the mainstream, Ketner Group is fortunate to represent several clients delivering AI applications that solve tough business problems and deliver significant savings in time and cost.
None of this would be possible, though, without the pioneering
companies that helped pave the way decades ago. So, here’s a salute to Texas
Instruments, Intel and other visionaries that are finally seeing their vision
come to life.
Interested in learning more about our thoughts on storytelling? We always love to chat about the topic over a cup of coffee. So don’t be shy, just reach out.
Read the Transcript
Goodlett: I want to start with Brittney. I am curious to hear from you. Why is
Storytelling is so important, especially to me because I feel like it gives
everyone an opportunity to share their truth, right? We all have our own, all
our story that deserves to be shared. And I see the impact impacted needs,
especially for under represented communities, right? So if you’re a minority
business owner, having your stories old can do understory. For example, I have
a colleague whose book came out this week. When she received her book deal her
publishing house was kind of nervous because she didn’t have a large social
media following. They really want to make sure that she could sell this book
and the book, it’s called, The Memo, and it’s about women of color and
workplace. It’s a great topic but it’s always hard to pitch opportunities or
stories around people of color, right? It really is. So her publisher’s
feedback really meant some of these are hurting. So I wrote about her for Fast
Company. Once that article went live, her publisher gave her a date for her
book to be released. That’s how much a story being published can make an impact
to someone’s life.
Goodlett: So I want to jump off of that point and pass it over to Nicole.
Nicole, I’m curious to hear from you how you see storytelling being important
to businesses. Because Brittney’s example is such a great example of like
someone who’s clearly making money from writing, but we also have sometimes a
harder time telling stories about companies. So why is story telling important
Delger: Storytelling gives people to talk about your company and you know,
share pride in the things they find. There are so many different things that we
can invest in or bring into our lives and it’s harder to be discerning some
times as a consumer. So when I think about storytelling, I always put my
consumer hat on. What are the brands that I like, what are the stories that I
rally around? How are they interesting? And I think it’s important for
companies down on what their story is so that people will talk about them. I
love your example, Brittney. I just saw another one in the news yesterday in
the Shelbyville Times about Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. Have you seen this
one? I thought that was so beautiful and it is inspired by a slave that taught
Jack Daniels how to distill whiskey. And they are saying, this is the Godfather
ofTennessee whiskey. And I think that is really exciting for people who are
entrepreneurial, who are wanting to make something meaningful, wanting to
create a brand that’s meaningful to go out and find these stories and be
inspired by these stories to create something new. So I think it’s made from an
entrepreneurial perspective. And so typing into your own story or the story
that you want to tell it from a creative business.
Goodlett: So, what do you do then if you don’t have that? So, like how does
storytelling money vary then between business to business or business to
consumer? And what do you do from a toolkit perspective to think differently
about those different types of companies or services?
Delger: Yeah, I mean not to immediately pitch hiring someone. I think it’s not
necessarily about hiring communications. company to tell your story. It’s about
having conversations with people and starting to look outside yourself, get
outside your business, get perspective on what might be interesting. For a
story, you might not recognize these really interesting people. I remember
Catherine talking about that person that you work with…
Goodlett: Yeah, that’s great. That’s a great leeway. Right. Catherine, can you
speak to this example or maybe some others that you’ve seen when it comes to
finding ways to tell stories about businesses?
Seeds: Sure. I think with our clients, we work with B2B technology companies,
so we’re always looking into why we’d be interested in stories about the
products and the services that our clients are providing. And that’s what their
marketing is for, of course, but we want to dig deeper. All of us here are
storytellers in some way. So you want to take deeper. And what I love to do,
what we love doing for our clients is figuring out what has inspired the
executive and founder of the company to start that company. In my experience, a
lot of CEOs and founders don’t give themselves enough credit for the
inspiration for their own companies. One of our clients, we sat down with the
CEO and founder to get the backstory. He is from Germany. He went through his
story about how when he was 16, he worked in the salt mines and how he
remembered the sweat coming down his face, working in the mines, the salt
mines. He remembered how his superiors would check on him to make sure that he
was okay. And he remembered that and he carried that with him. When he started
his own company he decided he was always going to treat everyone the same, no
matter what level and that was because of his background in the salt mines. So
we put together a pitch to the media and we’ve got some interest in that, which
is great because CEO stories are always interesting to tell. You want to tell
those stories about the products and services and how they’re affecting end
users but we want to go further, we want to dig deeper into telling more
interesting, more human inspired stories for our clients.
Yeah. So that leads me to a good question for Kelley. When we were preparing
for this panel we were talking about, how do you identify interesting stories?
Kelley you had some interesting things to say about that. You remarked that
when you consider stories, you say, is this interesting to me? So can you speak
to that a little bit?
Griggs: So that’s sort of the question I would ask. I would ask, hey, we are
seeking stories about startups. We happen to be seeking stories about startups
in the south. That’s like a pretty specific topic. And one of the reasons why
we were doing that was because we were looking for the types of things that
other people might relate to, both in business and in life. So, I think that
one really, really important part of telling your story is just asking
yourself, is this an interesting and would it be interesting to somebody else
if they were to read it? And what is really the, the hook of the story? If you
think about the hook of your story or you know, the reason why you love it so
much and emphasize that hook, I think that others are more likely to grab on to
whatever you’re talking about. They have to work on, you have to work on that
hook. So that’s really, you know, that’s really subjective. Everybody would
think a little bit differently and your story is not for everyone. So, I do
think though, as a journalist that something I would always think about if someone
was pitching me a story is, you know, is this interesting to my audience? And
that went back to my topic about startups in the south.
Goodlett: That’s a good point. So as a journalist who chooses which stories to
write about, can you speak to tips about someone may pitch you to get written
Griggs: Sure and I think, I think Brittney and I will have different
perspectives because when you’re, when you’re pitching to me, I have my topic,
I have startups in the south and that’s what I’m really looking for. And those
stories are very, very interesting to me because I’m telling you a human story,
I’m telling the story that a lot of people around here might relate to. I’m
telling a very different story than stories in Silicon Valley. So my stories
might have more grittiness to them. They might have more culture in the way
that we might understand it in our area of the country. They might not be so
much about scale and getting investment from, you know, getting millions and
millions of dollars. They’re not going to be the story of Silicon Valley.
They’re gonna be the story of what I’m used to. But, but my blog is about a
beginner, you know, a founder who’s just started a company, who is in the area
of maybe Nashville or Atlanta or Raleigh or global or Memphis. And I might be
your first person that you’ve reached out to. I think I’m way more likely to be
the first or second or third person you reach out to and say, Hey, I think I’m
writing to pitch somebody a story. So, people are out there starting
businesses. I’d love to hear from you.
Goodlett: And what do they say to you?
Griggs: They usually say something like, Hey, uh, I just started a company.
This is what it’s called. Here’s the website. I think my story’s really
interesting. I wouldlove to talk to you about it. And that’s how we start a
conversation. You know, there are little things, like details like time and
getting our schedules right. Then usually I am willing to speak with most
people as long as it’s in my topic area; most people who reach out to me as
long as they’re legitimate.
Goodlett: Brittney, would you say that that’s true for you? Like what does it
take for you to get pitched and to write about it?
Oliver: So I just want to let you know some of the outlets that I contribute
to. So I work where I contribute to the career money, entrepreneurial segments
for Fast Company, Essence, Nashville lifestyles, and other one line
publications. So I have a national reach, so I’m not limited to a region. But
to what you’re speaking, you need to pitch it within someone’s vertical, right?
So if your topic is on business or entrepreneurial endeavors or innovation at
your company, you want to target that specific staff writer or contributor for
that particular vertical in your immunity. You want to target the beauty
writer, right? So those are some of the tips that you would need when you’re
pitching yourself. Also, people don’t realize that you’re so much more than
your bio. You’re so much more than your bio. Really dig deep to different
angles to pitch yourself. You’ll never know when your experience, your life
experience will intrigue somebody. So for example, if you run a company, a
cheese company, right? But you have this really interesting background and how
you grew up and somehow it impacted the way you run your business. That’s
something that made it yourself. Is your company 50% minority? That’s something
that’s interesting because right now DNI topics are important and trending. So
also think about trending topics in your industry as well. What’s trending?
What is some leading data around your industry that you could leave with when
you’re pitching publicists? I mean, when you’re pitching publications, those
are things that are interesting. Lead with numbers, the data doesn’t lie. It
really backs up your story.
Goodlett: Yeah. So that leads to a great comment I think from Catherine. So,
Catherine, we have done a number of stories where we use data as a way to pitch
B2B, which sometimes has difficulty finding a human element. So as Brittney
said, that could be another way in. So I’d love for you to share some more
insight about how data can be used to help provide pickup.
Seeds: Right. The clients that we’re working with, we’re always looking for data,
whether that’s data with your own customer base or if you’ve gone out and done
some consumer surveys or research studies. You know, folks like Brittney and
other trade or business media are gonna be interested in that as well as a good
customer story. We have an interesting use case about how we were able to use
data very successfully in Kirsty you can keep me honest on this one since you
were on the team. We have a company in Austin, they’re an ad tech company. We
worked in collaboration with them to put together a consumer study around
Amazon Prime Day. We were looking at things like, you know, from a consumer
standpoint, you know, what are they shopping for during Amazon Prime Day? Have
they shopped before? What are they going to be shopping for this year? So we
kind of looked at that. It was focused all on Amazon Prime Day. We got really
lucky because we have really great data. We also had really great luck from a
timing standpoint because the day that we released our was the day that Amazon
had announced the date of their official Prime Day. So we have all this amazing
data out there. And what we found in that data was that Amazon Prime Day is
like the next big holiday shopping event, like back-to-school or any other sort
of micro-holiday. So, we have some really great data, but we also had really
great timing and our team had been pitching top tier and trade media, up until
that day. So the stars aligned in PR world that doesn’t happen very often. And
so we’re really glad that it did and we were able to get some awesome media
coverage: Bloomberg, Market Watch, Ad Week, and all the trade and ad tech
trades. Am I missing anything, Kirsty?
Goodlett: No, that’s good.
Seeds: Okay good. So from a success standpoint, it was a good day for us at
Ketner Group when that happened and the client, obviously was very happy. And I
know that the team is still being able to use some of that data moving forward.
Goodlett: Yeah. The other thing that I’ll add to that, which is interesting
from a story perspective is the one thing that was like the hook for the media
was Amazon Prime Day is the new back to school holiday, right? Like that’s an
interesting hook. But additionally Adlucent is an ad tech company, so we were
able to say, okay, it’s the new holiday and what are you doing about it? Right?
Like, are you making sure that your advertising is prepared in order to meet
this holiday? So that’s another example of how the data is great for getting
and securing that trade or that top tier pickup. But then from a business
perspective, you want to consider, okay, the data’s going to get me in and then
what do I do once I’m in, right? What’s my story after that? So in terms of
that logistics stuff, Nicole, I’m curious to hear from you regarding what
things you need to consider about stories that you might not expect. One thing
with you in particular, and knowing your background, how do you take a story
and integrate a brand identity. How do you take that and translate it into
Delger: Yeah, so I do marketing and communications, but my main client right
now is a pencil factory, a hundred year old pencil factory. And I’m now all
about pencils. I have a bunch in my bag if you want one from Musgrave Pencil
factory there in Shelbyville. So I mentioned that because if you don’t know
about the pencil industry, they’re notoriously secretive. So when they came on
and wanted to rebrand, they were a hundred year old company and nobody knew
anything about them. So it was of like, oh my gosh, I have this like chest of
things to just uncover. And I think the thing that’s surprising is they have
such a great story. They have so many vintage things. I didn’t have to tell it
all at once. It didn’t have to just go out there with this really long piece of
coverage. I can find a vintage advertising pencil and take an awesome photo of
it and find a business that it was advertising 50 years ago and tag them and
tell a little story. So especially if you have a company where you feel like
there’s so much to tell and share, it’s okay in your storytelling to tell
little nuggets, and little Easter eggs along the way and know that over time
you’re building that brand identity, you’re building that larger narrative. It
doesn’t all have to happen at once. And starting to know when you’re talking to
people, what details you can leave out just as much as what details should you
put in for whatever that exchange might be. And so I think you can find one
story on Instagram through a visual platform. Or another story if you’re doing
the longer piece of media, what you might talk about regarding your CEO, and
you don’t have to get into that, all that other stuff. And so really thinking,
matching the media, matching the story with it.
Delger: So something else that we were discussing earlier that was something
that came up that we wouldn’t expect so much was that Brittney talked about
thinking about SEO and what stories people want to hear. So can you speak to
your experience, Brittney, regarding from the publication side. What are
publications thinking about that would be surprising to companies?
Oliver: So everything is about clicks, right? A lot of people blame Buzzfeed
for the way the media is, but it’s true. It’s about clicks. Let’s, it’s
click-baity, right? How are we going to drive traffic? Everyone wants that
traffic. And so when you’re thinking about telling your story, think about
things that are trending, right? For example, I feel like this is the month of
Serena Williams. And the reason why I say that is, one, it’s tennis month,
right? Today’s the US Open. So anything tennis relating related is going to
pick up some traffic, right? Then she’s someone who advocates equal pay. And
that’s been a big topic this month, women’s equality day is today actually. So
she is someone who’s trending, circulating. If you have a story idea in those
little pockets you’re going to drive SEO. So tell that story, if it is sports,
or you know, Serena Williams related, you can tie her in somehow. Any of those
things. Think about those holidays that are coming up, the holidays that you
were talking about. Those things attract SEO. So when you’re pitching, really
think about that because that’s what media companies are looking for.
Goodlett: The other thing that I found surprising when we were meeting earlier
was that companies aren’t always ready to tell their stories. So, Nicole and
Brittney, you were both talking about what to do as you keep telling stories.
Kelly, I’m curious to hear from you, when do you know that you have a story to
tell in the first place?
Griggs: So some of you might be wondering like, Hey, I am just getting started.
I don’t have any customers yet or I don’t have, you know, my business is less
than a year old or the things that I want to share with the world just
happened. And obviously it depends on your personal preferences and
circumstances, but, I will say you wouldn’t believe how many pitches I get that
are pre-revenue, like barely have a put together a pitch deck, they just want
to reach out to me and like get on my radar. I don’t want to give advice
because I don’t know if bloggers find that annoying or if they if they like it.
I don’t really know. I only know how I feel and I’m just naturally curious and
I like stories. So if you were to send me the pitch deck, even if I were to to
turn you away. Or even if I said like, hey, this isn’t ready yet or I would
really like to see, you know, some other things. Come back to me again. You
should still send them to me because odds are I’m interested because I’m
interested in startups because I truly like starting businesses and I like
talking about it and I thoroughly enjoy that world.
Goodlett: What do you put in the pitch deck?
Griggs: So if you have a deck…something that should be included in the deck
is your information, what your business is, where your website is, what it
does, you know, the 32nd elevator pitch of who your competitors are. What is
your revenue plan, if you haven’t made money yet, ..if you do have customers, I
would like to know that you have customers. But remember, you have to be
careful with what you share with me because I am a writer and I will want to
write about things. So if there’s something that you just don’t want to share,
you don’t have to share it even if I ask for it. So just always remember,
Goodlett: Is it a PowerPoint typically or a pdf?
Griggs: It’s usually a pdf. Sometimes it’s like on a different website, but
sometimes it’s just an attached pdf like in keynote or it could be PowerPoint.
I get a wide range. Some of them are very well polished, they look like they’ve
been in front of investors, others are like done with them in PowerPoint. And I
think all this is to say that some of my favorite startup stories in Nashville
are people that you may have heard of now like ** for example, like they have
raised millions of dollars. Now they’re an instrument that, uh, you can put
your phone into and you can play any instrument using their device. Some fans
in Nashville have used the ** on stage and they’ve now gotten to the point
where they’re probably written in big publications more often than I would
write about them. But you know, when they just started out in Nashville, like
somebody had to find them. So I wrote about them a long, long, long time ago.
Another Nashville startup, there’s one that does lawn care. It’s almost like an
Uber for lawn care. Um, they started very young. When they started out, they
pitched me with like, I think just like maybe a one sheeter or a pitch deck or
something very light. And I had to sort of go out and keep following them and
dig for those stories. So I don’t know all this to say that I really like to
encourage people to just get started. I’m probably a little bit more
approachable. Like I don’t think that other media should or will give you
feedback like I do. And I try to keep it non-biased and according to my own
rules of my blog. But I will say that I would love to hear your stories in
Goodlett: So now we’ve heard about about what’s happening now. Catherine, I’m
curious about your perspective regarding how storytelling is evolving. Like
what do you see in terms of new ways that people are telling stories like
podcasts or social media? And also what are you seeing staying the same?
Seeds: So we are spending a lot more time looking at podcasts. I don’t know if
there’s any podcasters in the audience but we are starting to put you guys on
our media list because our clients are asking for that. It’s another new
interesting medium to, for our clients to tell their stories and also to share
on social media platforms inside. So we are really taking a close look at
podcasting. They’re more and more popping up every day especially in Austin. There’s,
there’s a ton of podcasts, a startup focused podcasts in Austin. Social media:
social media has always been there for us, but we’re really, um, trying to
build better relationships with the media that we work with on social media.
And not in an annoying way, but you know, if they are tweeting about something,
you know, or if they wrote an article about something interesting that had
nothing to do with any of our clients we might want to say, oh, that’s really
interesting or share that. It always goes back to developing really great
relationships with the media that you’re working with. Social media is a really
great, great way of doing that. And so we’ve been able to really kind of deepen
our relationships with the key media and also we get, you know, first insights
into people that are moving around. So someone that may be at Fast Company and
has moved on to Bloomberg and this and that, so we’re able to keep tabs of
what’s going on in there to help us tell better stories and tell the stories of
the right people.
Oliver: I just want to say that’s, that’s the most organic way to build a
relationship with someone who is a journalist, what you’re doing. And for me
personally, I don’t like pitch decks or pdf. If you can’t send like a quick one
paragraph blurb, then it’s probably a no go for me. But the most organic
relationships that I’ve built are the people who usually get features from me.
Like if you come to support me at an event and you need to spend a moment of
time with me afterward. And you tell me something interesting. I keep that in
mind. I’m also always listening to podcasts. If I hear someone on there and I
think, oh, that was really unique. I’m going to reach out to them for an
opportunity. So journalists are looking everywhere for the next story. So if
you don’t have, you know, an Essence or a Fast Company, that is fine. That
blog, that news letter, that podcast is another way that someone can be seen.
Seeds: I was just going to say one more thing. As far as things staying the
same and we kind of touched on it a little bit, but building the relationships
with the media is so important, no matter how you’re communicating. You know,
with you guys building those relationships and not, you know, just coming to
them when, when you need something. We found that we have better luck and I’m
sure you guys, you all are communicators, you find better luck in getting
things that you would want for your client or for yourself if you have that
relationship. It’s a two way street. So I really encourage you all to do what
you can to develop those relationships, whether it’s again, you know, talking
with them on social media, going to the events that they’re going to. We go to
a lot of trade shows for our clients and it’s a really great way to get face to
face. But again, all of this ties back to like, how can I help our clients or
my company tell a better story? And it really is ties back to developing really
Goodlett: Awesome. Thank you. I’m going to switch gears here. and pick up on
the Austin Nashville theme for the event. So, Kelly, I’m curious to hear from
you how you see storytelling supporting the growth of Nashville.
Griggs: That’s a great question. Look, we’ve been growing as a city far before
I came to Nashville. So I feel as a writer, like I am an observer and I’m only
telling the part of the story that I know how to tell. The part that I see in
the world. Back when I moved to Nashville in 2012, that happened to coincide
with the tech scene starting to grow really rapidly. Some of that was due to
local and regional investments. Some of that was due to accelerators starting
up. So that was due to coming off the flood and the last recession. People were
getting really comfortable and some of it was due to the success and the
stories that people heard from other places in the U.S. So, you know, when I
think about growth and where, where we go from here, I think there’s so much
opportunity. Part of the thing I get excited about when I’m telling a story is
that we are all part of it. If you’re here in Nashville right now. And I will
add that location really shouldn’t matter if you’re on the Internet, that
you’re in the conversation, so that kind of goes against like my, my regional
focus. But, in reality, you know, we all exist no matter where we are. And
since, you know, people are more interested in things like remote work and
longer maternity and paternity leaves and different people are interested in
different benefits that might apply. And that is really exciting for people who
live in places like Nashville. I think that is a very important emerging story.
So for us here, you know, starting a business, I don’t know, to me it’s never
been more exciting. But I would say that every year, since I’ve lived here, you
know, since I moved here in 2012. And I think the most important thing that I
see is that we are in charge of our own story. And that doesn’t have to be the
same as other places. It can be really our own brand and it can come from our
own place and it can come from our own history and our own experiences. And it
should be that way because we have our own identity.
Goodlett: Yeah. So that leads to a nice pass off to Catherine from Austin. So,
Catherine, I’m curious to hear from you how you’ve seen storytelling support
the growth of Austin.
Seeds: Well, I mean, I’m sure you all know it’s a huge tech hub, much like
Nashville is and is becoming. And it’s been that way since the 80s. I mean, um,
Dell computers started there, Twitter, got its start at South by Southwest. I
mean there’s a ton of really cool startup stories in Austin. And I think from a
storytelling standpoint, if like when we’re talking to companies and pitching
our clients, especially those that are based in Austin, that comes with a
certain cache. Oh, I’m from Austin! Or that comes from Austin! Oh, that’s cool.
Oh, I love Austin. Yeah, it’s the same thing with Nashville and we’re so glad
to be here because I feel like there is a lot of similarities between the two
cities. Because, again, you say, Oh, I’m from Nashville, I’m starting a company
in Nashville.. Oh, that’s cool. I’ve heard great things about Nashville. You
know, it doesn’t really change so much of like how we tell the story, but I
feel like it does kind of give us a differentiation when we’re pitching for
business because a lot of our clients that we’re working with are either global
or across the U.S. and so for them having someone in a tech hub like Austin or
Nashville is important to them.
Goodlett: Great. So the other thing that is true about this panel is that we’re
all women. So, Nicole, I would love to hear from you regarding why it’s
important for us to discuss diversity and inclusion as it pertains to the
future of storytelling.
Delger: Absolutely. You know, stories are how we make sense of the world. It’s
how we cooperate. It’s how we work together. I don’t know if has anybody read
the book Sapiens, it is a fantastic book. And you know, his whole thesis is
essentially, you know, we’re an animal and the reason that we were able to be
the dominant animal is our ability to work together, to cooperate and to tell
stories. So when we talk about the importance of inclusivity and whether it’s
women or people of color or people who have been disenfranchised, when they
don’t have the ability to tell the story and to shape the narrative then they
don’t have the opportunity to create the world that we all want to live in that
is different than the narrative that we’ve been told for hundreds of years,
thousands of years, by whoever was in charge at that given time. I think that’s
really interesting. We have to make sure that a lot of voices get to shape and
get to tell their stories so that we can create a better world for everybody.
Goodlett: So then Brittney, I’m curious to hear your response to that same
question. Where do you see diversity inclusion being important to the future of
Oliver: It’s important because it’s impactful. Like I said earlier, it really
makes a difference for a minority owned businesses when your story is told. And
so I want to give a, a quick story about just my experience moving back to
Nashville. So I lived in New York for seven years and diversity and inclusion
is such a big topic in New York. It’s something that everyone’s talking about.
All the companies are really trying to make changes. But when I came back home
a year ago, I noticed that conversation wasn’t happening here. It wasn’t loud,
people weren’t really making noise. And when I looked at the publications here,
I didn’t see a lot of black owned businesses featured in the publications. I
kind of made it a priority to be that vessel for those black owned businesses
and for minority businesses. So for example, Ashley is here today,. She has a
website called Urbanite and she really highlights a lot of the businesses that
are left out in those major publications here in Nashville. And because I’m a
subscriber to her newsletter, I came across Nicole, who is the owner of
Clarity, which is a candle shop. And I loved her story. I pitched her to
Nashville Lifestyles and she’s in the current business, women in business
issue. That’s something that was important to me to see more diversity in that
magazine and to see more diversity just throughout Nashville, but it’s so it
will change her business being featured in that and it will change other
people’s businesses. And so diversity inclusion, really being able to tell
those stories is impactful. There’s a Nashville mother and daughter team, Mixtroz,
well, they just moved but I featured them in Essence. I featured them in
Dssence and they were really close to hitting the million dollar mark raising
money. After essence, they hit that mark the next week. You know, so you can
leverage those things. That’s how much your story being featured being featured
in major publications as a minority can help. And so when people say no, it
doesn’t matter if you have press or not, it does. It really makes an impact.
Delger: I love what you’re doing. The voice you’re bringing because we talk
about how Nashville is booming and we want to make sure that it’s booming for
everybody, that everybody is, you know, because there’s so much industry coming
in here, like tech, and I love that you’re telling those stories and you have
that forum because it’s so critical at this key time for Nashville, for
everybody to get that lift.
Oliver: Yeah. Nationwide, nationwide, the numbers don’t lie. You know, we’re an
all women panel, but in business and major companies, you don’t see women on
the C-suite like that, right? So telling those stories are important. It really
can change the game. It starts to challenge what’s happening in corporate
America, right? And it starts to make people see different things about what they’re
doing. And so the numbers don’t lie. You want to be impactful. We want to make
change in our culture, in our communities. So definitely diversity and
inclusion is a big deal.
Kids are starting to swap swimming goggles for backpacks and flip-flops for sneakers, which can only mean one thing – it’s the end of the summer and it’s time to go back to school.
There’s always a buzz of excitement among students, parents
and teachers alike as shoppers flock the stores looking for the most colorful
pencil cases and the coolest fall wardrobe. To cater to these preferences, we
see retailers doing new and innovative things for the back-to-school season. Take
a look at these consumer and retailer trends to discover what’s cool for school
Trend #1: The Bell is Ringing for Record Back-to-School Spending
According to the National
Retail Federation (NRF), the average spending per household for
back-to-school shoppers is $696.70 – the highest ever recorded. And that’s not
all – the average spending per household for back-to-school college
shoppers is $976.78. In total, that’s a projected $80.7B combined spending for
clothing, supplies, laptops and other items for the next school year.
NRF also predicts that clothing and accessories will top K-12 families’ expenses at an average of $239.82, followed by electronics, shoes and school supplies. College shoppers plan to spend the most on electronics, followed by clothing, dorm and apartment furnishings and food items.
With a strong economy and high spending all around,
retailers are prepping for an increase in sales this year, but only if they continue
to innovate and keep ahead of the competition.
Trend #2: In-Store Shopping Gets an A+
Despite the growth in online shopping overall, Deloitte found that most back-to-school spending will continue to occur in-store, especially for school supplies and clothing. In fact, households plan to spend 56% of their budget in stores and 29% online, with the remaining 15% up for grabs with undecided shoppers.
With kids constantly growing and having their fair share of opinions on which notebook is their favorite, it’s no wonder that in-store shopping is still the channel of choice. Students want to be able to touch, feel and see all the options in-person. Still, Coresight Research estimates that approximately 28.3% of total US back-to-school spend will be online this year, up from 26.1% in 2018. This number will likely continue to grow as online becomes a popular channel for families looking for ways to save time and beat the back-to-school rush in an increasingly popular category.
Trend #3: Retailers Help Shoppers Beat the Back-to-School Blues
It’s always fun to see retailers come up with creative ways
to make back-to-school a lot more exciting, whether through fun festivities or memorable
For example, Walmart is hosting events such as STEM Day of Play, with DIY fun for kids. Meijer is treating incoming college freshmen to a party that includes a DJ, photo booth and interactive contests.
Retailers are also doing what they can to give back and get the community involved. Amazon is giving customers an easy way to donate a backpack full of school supplies to a student in need with Alexa. Food City hosted a back-to-school fair which gives away backpacks and school supplies to children in need.
Going the extra mile to create these experiences and
campaigns will build a positive brand association in the minds of the consumers
and keep them coming back beyond the back-to-school season.
Trend #4: Focus on Social Media
Of course, we can’t forget the power of social media. Students
are invested in their social platforms, and it’s a great place for retailers to
build up brand recognition and keep them top-of-mind.
Let’s take a look at Macy’s, who launched a back-to-school promotion that includes shoppable commercials on Snapchat and a video-sharing challenge on TikTok. By catering to U.S. teens, Macy’s is urging mobile users to record videos and inspire others to share their style. With mobile usage set to grow to 60% of back-to-school shoppers this year, it’s a great way for the brand to interact with their audience and find creative ways to meet customers where they’re at.
These four trends highlight the evolving changes that are
happening around one of the biggest shopping seasons of the year. Retailers are
gearing up for back-to-school sales by meeting consumers’ changing demands and
getting ahead of the competition. With dedicated studying and strong execution,
innovative retailers will surely ace the test!
A better title for this edition of “NYC Retail Hits and Misses” is “NYC Retail Hits and a Fix.” Or, a la “Friends,” in honor of its 25th Anniversary, “The One Where Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now Redeem Themselves.” But this did not come without one last blunder.
Before we dive into my ongoing NYC grocery saga, let’s talk about some happier retail happenings.
Hit: The Lead
No, don’t worry, “The Lead” isn’t a hip new retail store or direct-to-consumer brand that you’ve missed out on. But it might be one of the hottest new retail innovation events.
Launched last year, The Lead “bridges the fashion & retail industry with the global Silicon Valley, empowering the industry’s transition to digital centricity.” With more than 1,300 attendees at this year’s Innovation Summit, The Lead is quickly capturing the attention of retailers, brands, solution providers and influencers, alike.
Last month, Catherine made the trip to NYC and joined me in Brooklyn for the summit. Over two days, we heard from innovative solution providers like NewStore, Yotpo and Afterpay. Speakers also included executives from some of the hottest young brands and retailers in the industry, including Bombas, Shinola and AYR. We heard how Bombas is creating a culture for today’s workforce, how Shinola is reinvigorating Detroit, and how AYR is reaching millennials and Gen Z.
After two days of great speakers and conversations, I’m excited to see where next year leads (pun intended) the event.
Miss Fix: Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now
Okay, now back to the grocery drama.
As you might recall, after my last experience with Amazon Prime Now and Whole Foods, I was left without groceries. Soon after I wrote that blog, I learned the Whole Foods on the Upper West Side allows customers to shop in the store and pay for delivery anywhere in Manhattan. For a small fee of $4, my LaCroix, watermelon and other heavy items were delivered to my doorstep. Problem solved.
But not for long. On June 6, Amazon and Whole Foods ended their relationship with Instacart and moved all of their delivery in house. Long story short, when I went grocery shopping on June 11 and asked for delivery, I was out of luck. Whole Foods now only delivers to customers within 10 blocks. My nearest Whole Foods is 20 blocks away.
After a lot of back and forth, I was once again left without groceries. I was told my only option for delivery was to order through Prime Now. <Insert face-palm emoji>
After explaining my ongoing saga to the store managers, I was told to call corporate customer service. I then received a call from regional headquarters and was told to email the details and share the blog I’d previously written. This was the last I heard in mid-June.
Fast forward to early July. I see a courier delivering what appears to be a Whole Foods order from Prime Now in my neighborhood. I gave it another go. It was July 4 weekend and I had time to go to the grocery store if needed. But wah lah! Later that day, I had a fridge full of Waterloo sparkling water!
Two orders later, and the Whole Foods-Prime Now drama appear to be solved.
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.
3737 Executive Center Drive
Austin, TX 78731