Tag Archives: Consumer

Coffee, Burned

Foodie Friday has come around again and this week it brings us coffee. The folks at Keurig manufacture coffee makers and the pods that hold the coffee itself. They had an earnings call the other day and it brought out some very valuable lessons for all of us. Keurig’s financial results were not good and their stock has been hammered subsequent to the announcement. That’s not so instructive but the reasons why certainly are.

You might have one of these machines. If you do, you’re aware that the pods are both very expensive and not particularly earth-friendly. As what I consider to be a consumer-friendly nod to that, Keurig also makes a little reusable pod that you can fill with your favorite coffee. It’s less expensive, I find it makes better coffee, and the coffee grounds are the only trash. Of course if you want to go the single use pod route, there are lots of sources for them other than the “official” Keurig partners.

Keurig introduced its new flagship machine recently and there were some changes. First, the machine would only accept “official” Keurig pods – sort of Coffee Rights Management. The interwebs quickly figured out how to bypass this but the fact that it was deployed at all demonstrated Keurig’s thinking. Next, the reusable pod doesn’t fit in the new machine nor has Keurig made one. You MUST buy disposable pods.

Why would Keurig do this? Simple – the profit margin on the pods is huge. The results? Sales of coffee machines and accessories are down 23% in the last year and Keurig was forced to lower its 2015 sales forecast. Oops.

Of course, it’s not Keurig’s fault, at least not in their minds. “Some of this was due to consumer confusion around pod compatibility.” That’s the CEO on the earnings call.  OK, we’re dumb, but at least you admit you were too:

…we took the My K-cup away and quite honestly we’re wrong. We missed, we didn’t – we underestimated, it’s the easiest way to say, we underestimated the passion that consumer had for this. And when we did it, and we realized it, we’re bringing it back because it was we missed it.

The lessons are pretty apparent.  Don’t build your business around a plan that conflicts with your customers.  If they like a product, make it better or less expensive, or both.  Don’t take it away because you think it might improve your profits.  When something you’ve done isn’t accepted or working the way you planned, alluding to “consumer confusion” without admitting you caused it is narcissistic.  Frankly, for many people I know their morning K-Cup is not consumed with a desire for great coffee – it’s fast, it’s convenient, and they get over their guilt about polluting by the time they race out the door.  Getting those people angry by taking away choice in what they put into the machine isn’t growing the business – quite the opposite.

No business can overcome crappy product reviews (the new machine failed miserably) and consumer resentment over less choice.  Keurig’s results demonstrate that very well.  Any questions?

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Filed under Consulting, food, Huh?

What Price Ethics?

So here is an interesting question for you.  I was reading the results of a study conducted by the good folks from Trade Extensions that concerned how consumers view ethics and sustainability and how they affect purchasing decisions.  When you ask people how important it is that companies behave ethically and with an eye towards sustainability, four out of five consumers regard it as important.  That would suggest that doing the right thing (whatever that may be) is a critical factor in purchasing, right?

Not so much:

When asked to rank the three most important attributes when shopping, the most important factor is price – 40% of consumers ranked this number one.  The second most important factor is value for money – 30% ranked this number one. And the third most important factor is quality –  16% ranked this number one.  Choosing an ethical company or brand when shopping is the most important factor and ranked number one for 2% of UK and US consumers.

Hmm.  So is that a license for a company to do whatever they want as long as prices are low?  Given some of the voices speaking out against Walmart, for example, over things such as foreign product sourcing, treatment of product suppliers, environmental practices, etc., apparently not.  Like most things in business, it’s not quite that black and white.  The research shows a desire from consumers to buy ethically but ultimately price, value and quality are the deciding factors.

Other studies have shown similar results.  One from Accenture found that sales and competitive pricing (61%) are by far the most critical factors in getting consumers to make a purchase. Superior products (36%) and customer experience (35%) are also key, according to respondents, followed closely by customer loyalty programs (31%) and relevant promotions (26%). Ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements trailed by a significant margin, presumably as they’re more influential in driving awareness than completed purchases.

So back to ethical behavior.  Can any company afford to ignore it?  I suspect it’s very possible to do good while doing well and to enhance the quality of consumer’s lives in an honorable way.  Maybe it’s not much of a selling point because so few companies have that focus?  What is your take?

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Filed under Consulting, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

I Need To Know

I was reading about a study done by the Nielsen folks which measured how people are influenced by different sources of information.

Tom Petty

Since it’s Tuesday and we usually turn it into TunesDay, the song that popped into my head is Tom Petty‘s “I Need To Know.” OK, maybe not my best musical connection to a business point ever, but I think you’ll see why I chose it.

The Nielsen/inPowered MediaLab study measured the impact of product reviews by users, experts and brands to understand if one form provided a higher impact with consumers than another.  You can read about the study here.  The results show that expert content— credible, third-party articles and reviews—is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories. Frankly, the results gave me hope.  After all, many of the marketing tactics I see suggested by some of my less scrupulous peers seem not to have the sort of impact their advocates would suggest.  Advertising disguised as content, fake reviews, or even “unbiased” product information on the company website seem to have been sussed out and dismissed by consumers if one believes the data.  I particularly liked this:

The perceived partiality of the source was especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart. The third-party element was important to consumers: 50% indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website for an unbiased assessment of a product, and 61% were less likely to trust product reviews paid for by the company selling the product. Expert content can provide an unbiased and honest assessment of a product, particularly important during the final stage of purchase consideration.

There are cases such as with video game reviews where user comments and reviews are perceived highly.  Obviously someone who has played the game has the low-level of expertise needed to be reliable and trustworthy.  As the report I read states:

The report concludes by noting that, overall, the research suggests that there is a higher degree of trust from consumers when they are reading content from credible, third-party experts. This trust is demonstrated by the higher lift scores with regard to product familiarity, affinity and purchase intent and its perception of being highly informative and unbiased.

So what the song says is appropriate because consumers do need to know and do a lot of research to find out:

I need to know, I need to know
Cause I don’t know how long I can hold on
If you’re making me wait, if you’re leadin’ me on
I need to know

Even if the above refers to a romantic relationship and not to a purchase.  Then again, isn’t that sort of what a product purchase is?

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Filed under Music, Reality checks