Here we are, the last week of the Summer, and I think I need to take a writing break. For you loyalists in the audience, you know that I try to post 300-400 fresh words each weekday. That’s on top of trying to keep up with the income-generating portion of my life meaning doing consulting work. As I’m sitting here this morning, I’ve realized a few things:
- Not a lot of folks are working or reading stuff this week so my brilliant take on the world will mostly go unheard;
- There isn’t a lot of “stuff” going on in the media, marketing, or tech worlds this week so there won’t be a lot of news to write about;
- I’m kind of tired and maybe even burnt out on this blogging stuff.
It’s the last point that is most relevant. I don’t want to short-change your investment of time in the screed by delivering meh material. It’s what I’m always writing about: understand your customers and surpass their expectations. It’s not that I didn’t have a few topics hit me as I read the paper this morning but they’ll keep.
With the above in mind, I’m taking the rest of the week and the long Labor Day Weekend off from the blog. I hope to come back next Tuesday with some new perspectives and insights that are worth your time. In the interim, you can find all the older posts archived if you miss me. You can always email me too, especially if you’re in need of someone to work with your business (shameless plug!). Have a good week!
This Foodie Friday I want to talk about something I call “meaningless marketing” in the food industry although I think you’ll see that the principle behind the term holds true in any industry. Meaningless marketing is the use of words that really have no meaning. More importantly, in some cases, the words are used specifically because they might trick consumers into thinking they’re saying one thing when, in fact, they’re not.
Let’s use the term “natural” in the food business. One might read it on a package or a menu and think “this food is wholesome, healthy, and unadulterated.” Unlike many terms in marketing, “natural” isn’t regulated so in actuality the food in question can have artificial ingredients, preservatives, pesticides, and be made from GMOs. Not quite what the consumer is thinking, but exactly what the purveyor is hoping they will.
“Natural” isn’t the only meaningless phrase used in food marketing. “Delicious”, “Made With Whole Grains“, “A Good Source Of Fiber (or anything else)”, and “Low Sugar” or “Lightly Sweetened” are all other examples. As you might expect, I have issues with any form of deceptive marketing but I think when it’s done to induced people to consume unhealthy foods while the consumer thinks otherwise is pretty low.
The truth is that there is no “meaningless marketing.” It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. People see and hear things and act accordingly. I realize that there is a responsibility on the consumer’s part to read the labels or to garner information from other sources, but if companies aren’t honest about that labeling, thereby making the consumer’s research more difficult, how can any of us call ourselves a consumer-friendly brand that acts in the customer’s best interest?
Today’s screed is mostly about shopping (or selling, I suppose). I read some results from a research report and I think you’ll probably share my thinking about what the data shows: more of what we already know.
In a recent study UPS and ComScore released a U.S. study revealing changes in consumer shopping preferences and buying behavior. A total of 5,000 U.S. consumers were surveyed. The results indicate consumers plan to research and purchase more frequently using their mobile devices, they are influenced by social media, and free shipping continues to drive purchasing decisions.
No real shockers, but as with any study there are some nuances to the findings that are instructive. Nearly everyone (93%) shops at small retailers and 40% of them wanted to support the small business community by doing so. 49% couldn’t find what they needed from traditional stores so they turn to more niche retail outlets. Better prices (57%) and selection (49%) are the top reasons for purchasing online after researching an item in-store, which to me smells like an opportunity for bricks and mortar. After all, while there’s no doubt online sellers don’t have the same cost structure as offline, they have other challenges that can level the playing field.
One thing is returns. When a purchase is made online from a retailer that has an online and physical store, 39% of consumers who make returns prefer to ship the product back while 61% prefer to return the item to the store. When making an in-store return, 70% purchase an additional item compared to only 42% who make a new purchase while processing an online return. I suspect that this “ease of returns” is a selling point for pure physical retailers. According to the report, only 62% of consumers are satisfied with the online returns process: 67% review a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase, 66% want free return shipping, 58% want a hassle-free “no questions asked” return policy, and 47% want an easy-to-print return label.
The study provides insight to help retailers increase sales. 48% of online shoppers said they ship items to the store, with 45% of those saying they made additional purchases when picking up their orders. Free shipping remains the most important option during checkout according to 77% of online shoppers. More than half (60%) have added items to their cart to qualify for free shipping.
Most of the above seems fairly intuitive, but it never hurts to have our own intuition supported by facts, does it?