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12 posts from April 2019

Cementing loyalty with an annual report on the customer's performance

I would certainly wince to see an annual report from some of my favorite places to spend money, but The RealReal and Rent the Runway are emailing customers a personalized annual report that makes them feel good.

Glossy: How The RealReal and Rent the Runway are using personalized email reports to deepen customer loyalty, 2019-Apr-29 by Danny Parisi

“Our clients have told us for years that the sustainability element is one of the biggest motivators for buying or consigning with us, but for the first time, we really wanted to be able to quantify exactly how positive consigning is for the environment,” said Allison Sommer, director of strategic initiatives at The RealReal. “This is our first and biggest effort to translate what the circular economy means in a tangible way to consignors.”

Rent the Runway does something similar with its personalized reports, which break things down by carbon imprint and water waste, equating them to more understandable, everyday measurements — for example, 6,000 bubble baths’ worth of water saved.

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Half Price Books shows the way in instituting loyalty

Half Price Books is the perfect example of a company that deserves our loyalty, not because they care, but because they care enough to institute systems that preserve their values. 

Retail Touch Points: At Half Price Books, Empowered Associates Create Curated, Store-Specific Assortments, 2019-Apr-19 by Bryan Wassel

Half Price Books is unafraid to take its time when expanding to new markets. The retailer needs the right combination of demographic makeup, population growth and size for a city to become a good target, and it recognizes that not every scouting mission will be successful.

“Unlike a shoe store, we need lots of people, just because such a small percentage actually buys the printed word,” said Thomas.

With such a small audience, the key to success is making sure those that do shop there are dedicated. One way Half Price Books achieves this is through its ambiance. The retailer builds its own wooden shelves for a “homey feeling” inside the store, and its eclectic selection of both popular and unknown authors recalls the experience of visiting the famous Strand, an independent New York City store that claims to house 18 miles of books.

“Stores are a destination,” said Thomas. “If you’re a reader, and you live in New York City, you go to Strand. You want to browse their sections and discover new authors and discover new books, and we are a browser’s paradise. People love treasure hunting.”

The other key to the Half Price Books shopping experience is the staff. These associates aren’t just passionate readers who are experts on their favorite genres — they are also the ones purchasing used books from customers to further develop their relationships. Half Price Books uses a comprehensive onboarding process that includes author and category tests, as well as training on how to price incoming books.

“We give them a lot of autonomy and a lot of responsibility and authority,” said Thomas. “We’re giving our employees a pot of money and telling them, ‘You decide how much to pay for this book.’ So they feel an ownership, they love it, and they know how important it is. We have to train them thoroughly because we have 3,000 employees, and over 2,500 are deciding what to buy that book for, and what to price that book at.”

The extra effort and responsibility gives the staff more to do than the average retail associate, creating a deep sense of investment in the company. 

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How to use a loyalty program to create customer-investors in our businesses

Loyalty programs are frequently misunderstood. Used properly, they allow both the customers and the business owner to realize benefits from investing in a long-term relationship.  

  1. Get customer profiles into a data repository. Airtable.com is free and as easy as a spreadsheet PLUS much less vulnerable to user error. Or get a real CRM... 
  2. Find a way to connect customer profiles to behavior... Credit card I.D.? Loyalty card? Phone number? Be sure that one customer doesn't end up with multiple accounts which will make that customer seem less important. 
  3. Allow customers to build up capital in the account. Purchases are a start, but consider social media engagement and referrals, too. 
  4. Create a program that allows your customer-investors to get some ROI. Make it scale... more investment = more return. 
  5. Learn, learn, improve, raising our own return in investment. 

Entrepreneur.com Contributor:"What's the Point?" Guidelines to Customer Loyalty Programs, 2019-Apr-12 by Ashish Merchant

So why do so many brands use a points-based program?  One simple answer is to raise the value of the engagement with every transaction.  A flat discount (often advocated to extend “instant gratification”) may motivate customers to use multiple cards, not allowing the brand to distinguish between multiple transactions by the same users and multiple users.  However, reward points create an incentive for the customer to use the same card (or mobile phone number) repeatedly. Brands also build in a system to create stronger incentives for frequent users or high-value clients by way of program tiers which create higher levels of benefits.  This raises the stakes as the relationship progresses (the total value of accumulated rewards points is far higher at the end of a year, making the card perceived to be more valuable). 

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How to create a retail experience that allows us to compete against Amazon

As Amazon expands into the grocery business, we can learn great lessons from the companies which are competing effectively, especially Walmart and Trader Joe's. Walmart's success is mostly about distribution power, but Trader Joe's uses techniques which any retailer can copy. 

The Trader Joe's approach to retail:

  1. Make it personal
  2. Make it enjoyable
  3. Make it easy to manage transactions
  4. Make us feel like we are supporting the community.

Harvard Business Review: What the Grocery Stores Holding their Own Against Amazon are doing Right, 2019-Apr-12 by Amit Sharma

The nature of customer loyalty is changing as shoppers get more comfortable buying groceries online — prioritizing convenience, choice, and ease over physical proximity to a store. As consumers become more sophisticated, retailers need to inspire lasting loyalty across their customer base. To do it, they should offer flexibility, proactively communicate about order status and other details, and build emotional connections with shoppers.... 

And people are emotionally connected to grocers, as utilitarian as grocery shopping may seem. For example, Trader Joe’s, which ranked highly in the C Space study, inspires loyalty by creating an enjoyable shopping atmosphere. A 2018 Forrester survey of 287 brands rated Trader Joe’s first in positive customer experiences, and the company regularly outranks other grocery chains in sales per square foot. Trader Joe’s fans closely follow new product releases, request stores in their towns, and have even created their own community on Reddit.

Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer grocery delivery, but it has created such a personal and enjoyable shopping experience that customers actually want to visit its stores. Everything at Trader Joe’s is designed to make grocery shopping feel more friendly, personal, and laid-back, including its flexible return policies, free samples, quirky product labels, fast check-out, and helpful employees.... 

Grocers need to offer their customers more than points-based customer loyalty programs, which are no longer a competitive differentiator. Most grocery chains offer similar benefits and do little to foster an emotional connection between a shopper and a brand. A study by Accenture found that 78% of shoppers abandon loyalty programs after signing up.

By investing in the factors that build long-lasting loyalty instead of transactional programs that most people ignore, grocers can attract repeat buyers and brand advocates.

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Exploring our options on Pinterest

I've been trying to put together images from creatives in Houston on Pinterest, but it's very difficult because the identification on the images is so poor. I don't mind that people mix up the images from all over, but I'm frustrated in trying to figure where an image originated. 

Nevertheless, I think Pinterest will be very important in showing people how inspiring it is to live here. 

VentureBeat: Mid-funnel: Pinterest’s undisputed superpower, 2019-Apr-18 by Aaron Goldman of 4C Insights

More than 250 million people are now using Pinterest every month to immerse themselves in new ideas and deepen their engagement with their favorite hobbies. Interestingly, a full 97 percent of the most popular searches on Pinterest are unbranded — meaning searchers on Pinterest are truly in exploration mode. They haven’t made up their minds yet. They don’t know exactly what they want. Instead, they come to Pinterest to be inspired, and they are open to all sources of inspiration, whether those be brand sponsored or consumer generated. In this context, brands are welcome additions within the community, and the visual nature of Pinterest’s search engine opens up vast possibilities for advertisers.

Because mid-funnel consumer activity revolves so heavily around content, tracking impact in this realm has been historically difficult. To date, lower-funnel ad platforms have been the beneficiaries of this opacity when it comes to claiming credit for conversions. But with Pinterest, a new standard for return-on-investment has been brought to influential mid-funnel activity.

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What makes people choose Houston?

Life Storage Blog: 11 Reasons Why People Are Moving to Houston, 2019-Mar-22 by Lindsay McClelland and Lauren Thomann

What makes Houston more desirable than other Texas cities like Dallas, Austin or San Antonio? H-Town is progressive and may be attracting almost as many millennials to its city as Austin. It’s also one of the most rapidly growing cities in the country, which isn’t just by happenstance. Perhaps the reason people move to Houston boils down to the fact that it is a well-rounded, desirable place to live. Ask any Houston resident—native or transplant—and they’ll beam with pride and explain just how much living in Houston has influenced their life for the better.

We’ve come up with some of the top reasons to move to Houston based on some of the city’s most advantageous pros. And just so you have a full picture, we’ll also be discussing some of the drawbacks if you decide to move here. Already made your decision to relocate to Houston? Skip ahead for some sound moving advice and resources.

    1. Living in Houston is more affordable than other large metropolitans.
    2. Figuring out where to live in Houston is simple.
    3. It is possible to buy a house in Houston on a modest income.
    4. The populations in Houston is booming thanks to the job market. 
    5. You can bring your car when you relocate to Houston.
    6. Students have access to all of Texas' top universities.
    7. The food in Houston is diverse and world famous. 
    8. And there's not shortage of places to work out. 
    9. There are thousands of things to do in Houston. 
    10. Being outside in Houston is enjoyable most of the year. 
    11. People in Houston stick together in tough times. 
    12. Moving to Houston is a breeze with the right resources.

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Why does U.S.News "Best Places to Live" report rank Austin #1 and Houston #30?

It's challenging to try and compare Houston to all other American cities, but comparing Houston to Austin is helpful, especially if Austin is 'the best' according to U.S. News and World Report. Creative professionals in Houston usually have some direct experience of Austin, so personal knowledge can come into play. 

HoustonAustinHere are some things to consider:

  1. Should Houston try and become more like Austin? 
  2. Are the differences in geography always going to hold Houston back? 
  3. Is the general American perception of Austin any more accurate than the perception of Houston? 
  4. Are there subtle differences between the way the general population sees these two cities and how creatives, entrepreneurs and innovators see the cities? 
  5. Has the popularity of Austin among employers (especially technology companies) created a momentum that forces Houston to fight back against a 'rising tide'? 
  6. Is Houston doing as much as it should to leverage its University communities? Does having two well-known but different schools (U of H and Rice) lead to a less focused image? 

Hacking the Data

U.S. News's Net Migration number is based on U.S. Census data, but the Desirability is based on an online survey. Their Quality of Life Index is has many components and sources, and you can read about it here: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/methodology 

U.S. News & World Report: How We Rank the Best Places to Live & Retire, 2019

Desirability Survey: Using SurveyMonkey, we polled approximately 2,500 people across the country to find out in which of the ranked metro areas they would most like to live. The metro areas were then ranked according to the percentage of the total votes they received.

By the way, Houston was 26th in Best Places to Retire, and Austin was 4th. For retirees, we get closer together.