How Smartphones Will Influence the Future of Visual Merchandising and Store Design

It has been over a decade since the iPhone was first introduced to the world.

In that time, smartphone use has skyrocketed.

In fact, Deloitte expects smartphone penetration to approach 90 percent in the United States, with much of the growth being fueled by increased smartphone usage among older Americans.

Customers Use Mobile Devices When They Shop and Buy

As we know, having a smartphone has changed the way many consumers shop and buy products and services in brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, mobile is changing the way that we do almost everything in life.

Over the years, retailers have experimented with different ways that they can use mobile devices to improve their customers’ shopping experience.

In the near future, successful retailers will find ways to leverage mobile technology and incorporate it into all parts of their business. This will have a huge impact on the way retailers merchandise and design their brick-and-mortar stores in the future.

It is important to point out that retailers should not look for ways to use mobile devices just for the sake of using mobile devices.

Instead, retailers that will succeed in the future will find additional ways to provide value to customers. Often this means providing them with memorable shopping experiences.

In other cases, it might be finding ways to make their shopping experience easier or providing the customer with ways to save money.

Often these things can be achieved by leveraging the same mobile devices that their customers are already using.

After all, if mobile phones are changing the ways that people shop, wouldn’t it be smart for retailers to make adjustments and make it easier for their customers to find what they want when they want it using the same technology.

Using Mobile Devices to Improve Visual Merchandising and Store Design

Here are some of the ways that smartphones and tablets will change visual merchandising and store design at successful retail stores in the near future.

As already pointed out, retailers need to take into account the way customers use smartphones when they shop and buy in their brick-and-mortar stores. This includes customers using smartphones to comparison shop, find product reviews, look for coupons, and use shopping apps to do all the above. Smartphones are also changing the way customers actually pay for the products once they have made a selection.

With this in mind, retailers need to make sure that their digital marketing teams and their visual merchandising teams are talking to each other and are on the same page.

In the future, retailers that find ways to have their digital teams and their visual merchandising teams work together or even better, actually interact and play off each other will see positive results from their efforts. The goal should be to provide a seamless shopping experience, no matter what channel the customer is using.

Retailers should strive to delight customers and provide a remarkable shopping experience. In other words, retailers should be trying to create a shopping experience worth talking about.

Ideally, retailers will be able to inspire customers to take a photo of their shopping trip and post it on social media for their friends and family to see. This is some of the best advertising the store can get.

Another way that retailers can use mobile devices is to create efficiencies and improve productivity by having staff armed with smartphones and tablets and then create the right software and processes that leverage mobile to the fullest.

It is not enough to just provide mobile devices to employees. Management needs to explain to retail staff how and why to use them at different points in the shopping experience.

And, don’t forget that mobile can help improve processes throughout the store, not just while staff are interacting directly with customers.

While having staff use mobile devices to enhance the way they do their job is not going to directly influence merchandising and store design, it will help the store better understand the customer and make improvements wherever possible. It will also help management gather feedback and collect valuable data.

As just mentioned, retailers can use mobile phones to help better understand the needs and shopping behaviors of their customers by using these mobile devices to collect valuable data about their customers’ shopping behaviors while in the store.

This data will influence the way stores are merchandised and designed in the future.

However, as we have seen from many of the recent stories in the news, customers can be wary of the way data is collected and used. It is therefore important to proceed with caution and follow all of the rules and regulations. While retailers will use data to improve every part of the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, it is important that customers are aware of what is being done.

Final Thoughts

Smartphones and tablets have changed the way that customers shop and buy.

This post has focused on how mobile devices have changed how customers shop once they are in the brick-and-mortar store. However, as we know, mobile devices play a role in the whole shopping experience, even before customers enter the store and long after they purchase the product or service.

Knowing this, successful retailers with learn to adapt and leverage this knowledge to improve their customers’ shopping experience no matter how and when they choose to shop.

It only makes sense that retailers would find ways enhance their customers’ shopping experiences using that same mobile devices customers are already using.

This post has provided a few suggestions for retailers to consider.

This includes maybe one of the most important ways mobile devices can influence visual merchandising and store design… as a way to collect data. By providing valuable data that allows retailers to better understand their customers shopping behaviors, mobile devices will improve the way the store meets their customers’ needs now and in the future.

Photo credit: Antoine K on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Importance of Photo-Worthy Visual Merchandising and Store Design

Instagrammable shirtsFor years, retailers have obsessed over every detail of the brick-and-mortar store, with the goal of optimizing the shopping experience to get customers to spend more money.

Store designers would examine the design and placement of the signs that are found throughout the store, where the shopping carts are located, what music is playing in the background, where the cash registers are located, what department is located where, etc.

However, with the advent of mobile phones and the increased use of social media, many retailers are being forced to change the way they design the store.

One of the things that retailers are now thinking about is whether or not the store inspires customers to take a photo of the store and post it on Instagram or any of the other social networking sites out there.

In the long run, having a photo-worthy store could be more important to the bottom line than one might think.

A Majority of U.S. Adults Use Social Media

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) are Facebook users, 35% use Instagram, 29% use Pinterest, 27% use Snapchat, 24% use Twitter, and 22% use WhatsApp.

It is also interesting to note that over half of current Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram users visit these social networking sites on a daily basis.

This means that there are a lot of opportunities for retailers to get their stores featured in customers’ social media posts.

The key is giving customers a reason to post a photo or comment about the store online.

Is Your Store Instagrammable?

One of the ways to get featured on your customers’ social media posts is to create a shopping environment that just begs to be photographed.

Therefore, it is not surprising that many retail experts have started to use the adjective “Instagrammable” to describe the way a store is designed.

“Instagrammable” could be translated as a photo-worthy location or item that inspires customers to actually take a photo of and then upload it to any social networking site. Because Instagram is known for being able to make ordinary photos look extraordinary with filters, people tend to use that social networking site to represent all the other social networking sites that their customers use.

Others claim that “Instagrammable” goes beyond that.

In an article titled, “Do It For The ‘Gram: How Instagram is Changing the Design Industry,” Lucy Leonard contends that, “Consumers nowadays want to lead Instagram-worthy lives.”

“What does this mean, you ask?” she continues. “It means spending more money on cool, Instagrammable experiences. It means living a life full of adventure—or at least posting pictures that make it seem like you do.”

The way stores create this type of shopping environment will vary from store to store. Therefore, it is beyond the scope of this post.

Final Thoughts

The intention of this post is to point out that retailers need to start thinking about store design not only from their current customers’ perspectives, but also from the perspective of all the potential customers their current shoppers are connected to.

If a user sees the store in a post on a social networking site, there is a chance that it will influence his or her decision to shop at the store in the future.

Therefore, in addition to getting the current shopper to spend more money, now store designers also need to encourage customers to take photos of their shopping experience and upload them for their friends and family to see online.

Furthermore, store designers need to make sure that the store will be portrayed in a positive light and in a way that is consistent with the brand’s image.

Retailers also need to keep in mind that some customers might wonder if it is acceptable to take a picture of a store display while in the store.

Therefore, once you have created a store design that you think is “Instagrammable,” it is important to encourage in-store photography!

But, don’t get too carried away, because asking customers to take photos could make it look like you are begging, or even worse, it could backfire and create bad feelings.

This topic and others associated with the post will be explored, in detail, in future posts.

Photo credit: YL Tan on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-ND 2.0.)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Social Media Props: The H-E-B Limited Edition Selena Shopping Bag (Case Study)

HEB store“Fans of the late “Queen of Tejano” Selena Quintanilla caused the website of Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B to crash after they released a limited-edition reusable shopping bag honoring the singer,” writes Thatiana Diaz in a March 9th post on people.com.

H-E-B clearly hit a homerun when it teamed up with the Selena Foundation to sell a limited quantity of special-edition shopping bags that honored the late singer Selena Quintanilla.

However, the real story goes beyond the fact that people waited in line to buy the bags or that the bags sold out so fast.

The real win was all the earned media coverage that the brand received when fans of the singer posted photos of the bags online and the press covered the story after the bags sold out so quickly and caused the H-E-B website to crash in the process.

The Selena Bags Generated a Great Deal of Earned Media

In addition to the article on people.com, the story was covered on today.com, popsugar.com, retailwire.com, and on local news affiliates’ websites around the country.

This definitely helped put the brand front and center, making it visible to a lot of potential customers.

And, as most marketers know, the best thing a brand can get is a positive mention of the brand from a customer on social media, as friends and family are the best influencers out there.

So, when fans went online in droves to post photos of the bags, as well as photos of the lines of people waiting to receive their bags, the retailer scored… big time!

To see what people posted, search for #SelenayHEB or #Selenabag on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Here are just some of the posts that I found on Instagram and Twitter:

 

Yayyyy! Thank you so much Mr. Q !!💜💜 #queenofcumbia #selenayheb @heb

A post shared by Isabel Marie💗 (@isabelmarieofficial) on

Got some! #heb #selena #queenofcumbia #anythingforselenas #selenayheb

A post shared by Monica Velasquez (@lemon78644) on

Im so excited I was able to grab a couple of these!! #SelenayHEB

A post shared by Gabrielle Nichole (@gabbyrielles) on

Anything for Selenas. #SelenayHEB A post shared by Lisa Letchworth (@512panthacat) on

QUEEN OF CUMBIA!!!! #heb #selenayheb #vivaselena A post shared by Cristina Davila (@cristybexar) on

ME SIENTO MUY… EXCITED!! WE GOT OURS!!!💓💓💓 #SelenayHEB A post shared by Bek🏋🏽🐾🍕🌮🧀 (@yourstrulybek) on

 

The Limited Edition Selena Bag as a Social Media Prop

This isn’t the first time that I have written about shopping bags as a way to get a store mentioned in user-generated posts in social media.

In fact, it was about two years ago that I wrote a post explaining how to use visually appealing luxury shopping bags as photo props to get included in the posts when customers upload photos of their in-store purchases after a long day of shopping.

In this case, though, the shopping bag was not only used to carry home the products purchased, it was the product.

A product that was the star of a lot of photos posted online shortly after the bags went on sale.

The Upside of “Sold Out”

Because the sale of the bag helped the Selena Foundation while honoring the beloved singer, I think H-E-B did almost everything right.

I say H-E-B did almost everything right, because the website did go down and they did run out of bags on the first day. Clearly there was more demand than the store anticipated.

But then again, maybe the fact that they ran out so fast was also a good thing, because the limited quantity of the bags increased their perceived value. If you don’t believe me, just look what they are selling for on eBay! (Many have sold for over $50 per bag, with one selling on March 7, 2018 for $169!)

And, if the website hadn’t crashed, would the press have covered it? Who knows? Therefore, that might be a good thing, as well.

Final Thoughts

As I have said before, offering customers a trendy shopping bag is a great way for retailers to get included in the post-purchase photos that customers upload to social networking sites after a long day of shopping.

As highlighted in this post, H-E-B offered a limited edition reusable shopping bag that honored a beloved singer and benefited the Selena Foundation. In this case, the bag was the product.

A product that a lot of customers wanted, as demonstrated by the long lines and the many posts on social networking sites from customers bragging that they got the bag or complaining that they weren’t able to purchase one.

Either way, the reusable shopping bag honoring Selena Quintanilla generated a lot of earned media for the store. And, that is a good thing.

On that note, I want to end the post with a YouTube video from a customer who just missed out on getting the bag. He was gracious even though he waited in line only to leave empty handed… twice! (He waited in line in the store and couldn’t get a bag online before the website crashed.) Hopefully, he will still be able to purchase the bag online on eBay.

Photo credit: Todd Morris on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license – CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Video credit: Aaron Sanchez on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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How Social Commerce Can Help Increase Sales

Social Commerce MobileSocial networking sites have been around for over two decades.

However, it wasn’t until recently that many businesses realized that social media was a viable way to get the word out about their products or services and maybe even a place to sell directly to the consumer.

That doesn’t mean that these social networking sites weren’t trying to find ways to get businesses to use their sites to sell products early on, it was just that many businesses were slow to catch on.

While many social media platforms rely on advertising that ultimately drives users to advertisers’ websites, many of the most popular social networking sites have at least experimented with ways to get consumers to buy directly from businesses without even having to be redirected to another website.

To illustrate this, an infographic created by 16best.net  has some interesting facts about social networks as ecommerce gateways. The part of the infographic that lists a “Timeline of Social Commerce” is shown below. Although not all inclusive, it highlights some of important points in the brief history of what people often refer to as social commerce.

History of Social Commerce 16Best

 

Additional Comments on Social Commerce

In a blog post about social commerce on the Conversion Sciences Blog, Jacob McMillen states that, “Social commerce is selling that takes place directly through social platforms. Instead of using social marketing to drive visitors to your website, where you then convert them into customers, visitors are sold to directly on social media either in the form of a complete checkout experience or a “Buy Now” style click-through that triggers an off-platform checkout.”

It appears that this is what 16best.net is using as the working definition of social commerce in their infographic.

However, I need to point out that others have a much broader definition of social commerce. If you are interested, Wikipedia.org has additional information on social commerce and its other definitions.

Final Thoughts

As shown in the infographic provided by 16best.net, many of the most used social networking sites are constantly looking for ways to help businesses convert sales directly on their sites without redirecting users to another website.

This is good for the businesses selling the products because it reduces the number of steps needed to make a conversion, thus eliminating some of the lost sales that might otherwise occur because of website friction.

It is also great for the social network because it adds value to their service, not to mention the fact that it keeps the user on their site.

Remember this is only a small part of the story, as social media is often used for reasons other than conversions. In fact, often social media is part of the awareness and consideration phases of the buyer’s journey. (Note: This depends on the type of product, of course.)

That said, from a business standpoint, it is important to keep up with the options available so that you can reach your customers where they are when they need your product.

Again, your business might experience increases in sales by taking advantage of the social commerce options available, because there are fewer chances to lose the customer in the conversion process.

Photo credit: Jason Howle on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

Infographic credit: 16best.net blog.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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28 Things to Watch in 2018 and Beyond

Scan the Horizon 2018The world that we live in is changing at a rapid pace.

To prepare themselves for the future, leaders need to keep an eye on the things that will influence their businesses.

With this in mind, one of my first posts each year lists the things that I think will have the biggest impact on the world we live and work in in the next few years.

This list not only helps me stay focused on the important topics, but also serves to track whether or not I am watching the right things.

This is the list so far [with the year that the items were added]:

1) Rapid advancements in technology [2013]

2) Mobile (user experience and marketing) [2013]

3) Mobile payments [2013]

4) Mobile-influenced merchandising [2013]

5) Privacy issues [2013]

6) Emerging markets [2013]

7) The Internet of Things [2014]

8) The evolution of retail (including omni-channel retail) [2014]

9) A global marketplace [2014]

10) 3D printing [2014]

11) Cyberattacks [2014]

12) Ethics [2014]

13) Online video [2016]

14) RFID, NFC, and beacons [2016]

15) Augmented reality (AR) [2016]

16) Virtual reality (VR) [2016]

17) SEO for the Internet of Things [2016]

18) Experiential marketing [2016]

19) Wearables [2016]

20) Dynamic pricing in brick-and-mortar stores [2017]

21) Machine learning & artificial intelligence (AI) [2017]

22) Voice-activated technology [2017]

23) Business collaboration with the competition [2017]

24) The evolution of work (changing skillsets required and the influence on the economy) [2017]

25) Robotics [2018]

26) Subscription business model [2018]

27) How online communications influence public opinion [2018]

28) Market research techniques for the 21st Century [2018]

Final Thoughts

Each year, I add a few new items to the list.

However, this year, I combined omni-channel retail with the evolution of retail. Although omni-channel retail is important enough to stand alone, nearly all retail will need to be omni-channel in the near future. Therefore, I think it makes sense to combine these two items.

I also deleted the evolution of marketing and public relations because it is implied when you consider all the other items on the list, in aggregate.

Finally, I broke augmented reality and virtual reality into two separate categories, because we are starting to see some interesting things happen with these two technologies.

So again, you have my updated list. If there is anything that you think that I should add, please feel free to comment below.

Photo credit: Binoculars on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Continuous Education Will Be Required to Keep up with Technological Change

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The rapid advancements in technology, including artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, are changing the work that we do and the way it’s done.

In fact, an article published on the CNBC website in October of 2017 cites a 2013 study conducted by Oxford University that “estimates that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be replaced by robots and automated technology within the next two decades.”

This means that the human workforce is going to need to adapt to keep up with these changes.

In the same article, Jeff Hesse, PwC principal and U.S. people and organization co-leader, is quoted as saying, “It varies a bit by industry, but over the next five years we’re going to see the need for workers to change their skills at an accelerating pace.”

As the article goes on to point out, this doesn’t mean that employees are going to have to go back to school to get a degree. There are alternatives offered by community colleges, reputable trade schools, and even internal training and recruiting programs offered by companies looking to keep their human workforce employed.

Major universities and colleges have also noticed the need to train people for the jobs of the future and have started to offer online training programs directly to students.

Some universities and colleges have also partnered with tech startups to make massive open online courses (MOOCs) available to people who want to continue their education without paying a lot in tuition fees. Some of the most popular MOOCs include Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Udemy, just to name a few.

Will These New Educational and Training Programs Be Enough?

A report published by the Pew Research Center in May of 2017 tackled this question. The report included findings from a largescale canvassing of 8,000 experts and members of the interested public by the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. The study was conducted from July 1 to August 12, 2016.

According to the report, 1,408 respondents answered the following question:

“In the next 10 years, do you think we will see the emergence of new educational and training programs that can successfully train large numbers of workers in the skills they will need to perform the jobs of the future?”

The authors of the report state, “The nonscientific canvassing found that 70% of these particular respondents said “yes” – such programs would emerge and be successful. A majority among the 30% who said “no” generally do not believe adaptation in teaching environments will be sufficient to teach new skills at the scale that is necessary to help workers keep abreast of the tech changes that will upend millions of jobs.”

Respondents were then asked to further explain their answers and to consider a few additional questions. The responses to these questions highlight some of their predictions, both optimistic and pessimistic. Some of their responses influenced my thoughts below. I encourage you to check out the report for additional information.

The Future of Education Is a Continuous Process

Education will need to evolve.

That doesn’t mean that we will need to scrap the current education system entirely, at least in the near future.

However, I believe it will need to be supplemented.

If recent trends continue, having a bachelor’s degree will continue to be important and having a master’s degree will definitely be a plus.

Number of good jobs by level of educationA study conducted by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce highlights this trend. According to their research, there has been an increase in job opportunities in recent years for workers with at least some level of postsecondary education and training. However, the distribution of good jobs has increased the most among those workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Keep in mind, the past doesn’t always predict the future, but it’s a good indicator of what will happen in the short-term.

That said, I don’t think that having a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree will be enough.

If the experts are correct and the skills required to fill good jobs continue to change at an accelerating pace, then workers will need to constantly retrain for the jobs of future.

As mentioned earlier, some of this training will occur through self-directed online training programs or through training provided by companies trying to keep their human workforce employed. Mentoring programs or apprenticeships that provide hands-on training will also be important.

As we are already seeing, formal certifications that require passing rigorous testing will often be required to validate the quality of training employees receive. However, as the report mentioned above points out, determining which organizations to trust with this testing will be an issue.

This might be an area where universities again step in, as some already offer certificate programs or give students college credit for passing exams without requiring formal classroom attendance.

But, then again, who knows?

Right now, we are all trying to figure out the best ways to handle the challenges that we face.

In the more distant future, the education system that we know might need to be completely reimagined.

In my opinion, the best we can do is try to keep up with the changes by taking advantage of the educational resources currently available. Even experts in their field can benefit by updating their training on an ongoing basis. In the process, they might learn something new. And, at a minimum, they will be able to help validate what is and isn’t quality training.

Photo credit: Wolfgang Greller on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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A New Year’s Resolution to Read More Books With the OverDrive and Libby Apps

OverdriveLast year, I read a total of eight books. But, eight just isn’t enough.

The problem that I have is that I like to read part of a book, then think about it for a while before moving on. That takes time.

So I had to find a way to consume the information while doing other things.

My first thought was to find a way to read while running.

As you can probably guess, the solution that I turned to is the audiobook.

As you know, Audible is a great place to start. I have downloaded a few books there. I haven’t subscribed yet, but I was thinking about it.

That was, until I found the OverDrive and Libby apps.

These apps let you download audiobooks from your local library for free. I repeat… FREE!

I am currently listening to my first audiobook on Libby now and it seems fairly easy to use. And, the selection of audiobooks at my local library is fairly good. It definitely should give me enough choices to last me the year.

While I do have a lot of books on my to-read list, I am always looking for suggestions.

To get a feel for the books that I am looking for, here is a list of the books I read in 2017 and those that I am currently reading:

Books Read in 2017

The Distribution Trap: Keeping Your Innovations from Becoming Commodities by Andrew R. Thomas (Actual book)

Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson (Audible audiobook)

The 86 Percent Solution: How to Succeed in the Biggest Market Opportunity of the Next 50 Years by Vijay Mahajan (Actual book)

Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business by Jeff Howe (Actual book)

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell (Actual book)

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie (MP3 audiobook)

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil (Audible audiobook)

Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler (Actual book)

Books That I Am Currently Reading

1984 by George Orwell (Libby audiobook)

Googled: The End of the World as We Know It by Ken Auletta (Actual book)

The Erotic History of Advertising by Tom Reichert (Actual book)

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam (Actual book)

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of great books out there.

And, now that I have access to free audiobooks from the library via the OverDrive and Libby apps, I will learn a lot more this year.

That said, if there is a book out there that I need to add to my reading list, please let me know.

And, feel free to connect to me on Goodreads.

Photo credit: Digital Bookmobile on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

 

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Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Charity Runner: The Beginning of a Fundraising Journey

Photo credit: chadjthiele on Instagram.Note: This post deviates from the regular voice of this blog. It is meant to document the beginning of my fundraising efforts for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. I am posting it because it will give some context to future posts. It also lets readers know where else they can find me on the Internet.

This year is my fifth year serving on the event planning committee for the Twin Cities Take Steps Walk, a fundraiser that benefits the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

As their website points out, “Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis is the Foundation’s largest fundraising event of local community walks dedicated to raising funds to find cures for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Participants and teams raise funds throughout the year and come together at the Take Steps walk event to celebrate their fundraising achievements!”

As part of the event planning committee, I help plan one of the Take Steps walks to help others raise money for this important cause. However, I never actually took part in the fundraising efforts. That is, until this year.

From Crohn’s Patient to Charity Runner

I chose to help with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Take Steps Walk because I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1995 while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Without getting into all the details, I can say that I was able to keep the disease in check for nearly two decades with the help of medication.

However, in September of 2013 I was told that I would have to have surgery as a result of complications that were caused by the disease.

In the months that followed, I decided that it was time to try to increase my fitness to prepare for the surgery.

This is part of the reason that I started running in the summer of 2014.

In fact, at the time, I decided that if I was going to take up running, I would gradually train myself to run the full 26.2 miles to complete a marathon.

The first year I ran several 5k races.

In 2015 I increased the distance to 10 miles and then upped the mileage to 13.1 miles in 2016.

Then, just before my 43rd birthday, I called up the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to say that I was ready to raise money as a Team Challenge charity runner in the 2017 Chicago Marathon. (Team Challenge is similar to Take Steps, but participants run instead of walk.)

Documenting My Team Challenge Run

In an effort to document my training for the marathon, I started a sideblog on Tumblr (charityrunner.tumblr.com) and a YouTube channel (Charity Runner).

You can also connect on mapmyrun.com.

I am also going to be posting on my Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. I am @chadjthiele on all three of these social networking sites. (Note: I try to keep my Twitter focused on marketing, but I post running updates every once in a while.)

And, of course, there is the fundraising page on the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation website.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned, I have helped other people raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation for a few years. However, I didn’t take part in the actual fundraising efforts.

That was, until this year.

At the end of the journey, I plan to document some of the things that I learn along the way. (For example, company matching donations are awesome!)

Until then, please follow me on the social networking sites that I mentioned above and donate!

Thanks in advance.

Chad Thiele (Crohn’s patient since 1995, #nocolonstillrollin since 2014)

Photo credit: chadjthiele on Instagram.

Video credit: Charity Runner on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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A Case for Cause Sponsorships

Cause SponsorshipCause sponsorships and cause marketing, in general, are effective ways to earn trust from consumers and increase the number of loyal customers for the brand.

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, “Sponsorship is a form of cause marketing that involves donating to an event or organization and receiving public recognition for your contribution, linking your business name to the name of the cause.”

According to the IEG Sponsorship Report, cause sponsorship spending in North America increased to $1.99 billion in 2016, up 3.3% when compared to 2015 totals. Furthermore, they estimate that this number will increase to $2.06 billion in 2017.

While this is only a small fraction (9%) of the total sponsorship dollars spent in North America, it is still a number that should hearten the leaders of the many worthy charitable organizations out there.

Cause Sponsorships Should Remain Strong

The IEG Sponsorship Report warns that the growth in sponsorship spending, in general, could slow given several factors, including “uncertainty over global and local economic conditions in the wake of Brexit, the Trump election and other geopolitical matters, and its impact on marketing spending, including sponsorships and partnerships.”

However, I would argue that other types of sponsorship programs (e.g., sports, entertainment, festivals, fairs, and annual events, etc.) would be negatively impacted first. In fact, cause sponsorships could actually benefit by turbulent economic conditions.

The reasons that I believe this to be true are in line with a discussion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) during the Great Recession.

While cause sponsorships and CSR are not the same thing, they both attempt to improve the bottom line by understanding the bigger picture and improving the lives of their customers and the world, in general.

In an article that focuses on CSR in companies located in our neighbor to the north, the author makes the case that Canadian companies would actually be hurt by cutting funding for CSR programs during an economic downturn.

According to the article, “Heading into the recession, John Quelch, a marketing professor at Harvard Business School, wrote extensively about the risks involved with taking an axe to CSR budgets. Many consumers, he says, have come to differentiate between brands based on the social initiatives they undertake. Moreover, once companies lose their trustworthiness on social responsibility matters, it can be very hard to get it back, warns B.C.-based corporate sustainability consultant Coro Strandberg. “You’ll lose your credibility with your own employees,” she says. “They’ll perceive it as a fad and they won’t be as engaged next time around. Your suppliers won’t believe that you’re committed and neither will your customers. Once you’re in the game, you have to stay in the game.””

The article goes on to highlight that social responsibility initiatives help restore reputations of companies that are battered by tough economic conditions.

Final Thoughts

Again, CSR and cause sponsorships are not the same thing.

However, I believe the argument for CSR in tough economic times can be extended to cause sponsorships, as well.

CSR and cause sponsorships both work to improve the reputation of the brand and thus increase business by focusing on making the world that we live in a better place. (The same could be said of cause marketing in general.)

Since it is an effective business strategy in both good and bad times, I believe that cause sponsorships, cause marketing, and CSR will all continue to get funding from businesses of all sizes.

Again, this is great news for the charitable organizations. It is also great news for the businesses that sponsor the many worthy causes out there.

But, most of all, it is great news for all of us.

As I have mentioned before, good business is good for business.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Why Customer Experience Is More Important Than Ever Before

Photo credit: Alex Holyoake on Flickr.No matter what product or service you sell, every business is your competition.

While this has always been the case, current trends are forcing companies to face the reality that their customers now have the ability to spend their finite monetary resources in an unlimited number of ways. When they choose to spend their hard-earned dollars on one thing, that money is no longer available to be spent on another product or service.

This means that a company that makes designer clothing not only has to compete with other clothing brands, it is also competing with companies that make smartphones, computers, household supplies, automobiles, and a number of other products that consumers purchase each and every day.

To make matters worse, they also are competing with restaurants, bars, hotels, spas, movie theaters, amusement parks, and a number of other businesses that are selling experiences rather than products. In fact, the statistics show that, in recent years, consumers are more likely to spend their money on these experiences rather than tangible products.

Customer Experience Expectations Have Risen

Your business is not only competing with every other product and service for consumers’ finite monetary resources, your customers are also comparing the interactions they have with your business against every other business that they interact with.

This means that if any business is able to provide a great customer experience, their customers will begin to expect other businesses to do the same, even if they are selling a different product or service.

“Once we experience a standard of excellence, we begin to expect that same standard, circumstances or company policies be damned,” writes Jay Baer in his book, “Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers.”

“It doesn’t matter what you and your direct competitors are doing, or prefer to do, in the realm of customer experience,” writes Baer. “The greatest businesses in the world are training your customers on what to expect, and they will eventually demand that you also meet that standard.”

Final Thoughts

Every business is your competition.

With this in mind, businesses of all types need to focus not only on creating and selling a quality product or service, but also on making sure that the buying process is enjoyable and that the experience that customers have after the sale is favorable.

This will not only lead to repeat customers, but can also hopefully turn customers into a brand advocates. And, as we know, this is more important than ever before.

Therfore, it’s not surprising that many businesses already recognize the importance of customer experience. And, even more will be putting more emphasis on customer experience in the not-so-distant future.

Photo credit: Alex Holyoake on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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