Reward Customers for Good Behavior to Generate Positive Word of Mouth

Photo credit: leyla.a on Flickr.The world would be a better place if we all treated each other a little nicer.

Maybe if good manners were assigned a monetary value, more people would be on their best behavior.

This is exactly what a few restaurants and coffee shops have done.

In the process, they have received positive coverage from bloggers and other online media outlets.

In the age of where news stories can be found on search engines for years and people can spread the message via social media and online review sites, this kind of coverage can definitely make a positive impact on the business’s bottom line.

Here is a list of some of restaurants and coffee shops that I have heard about lately that have used this tactic to get people talking about their businesses.

Rewarding Parents When Their Kids Are on Their Best Behavior

Back in 2013, a Washington eatery got mentioned on for giving Laura King and her family a $4 discount on their bill to cover a bowl of ice cream that the owners gave the family because their children were so well behaved.

As the article points out, “Rob Scott — who owns Sogno di Vino, the restaurant King visited — said he routinely offers complimentary desserts to customers with well-mannered children, but this was the first time he had actually typed the discount on the receipt.”

“An image of the receipt quickly went viral after one of King’s friends posted it online,” the article continues.

While not all the mentions that the restaurant received were positive, the discount got people to talk about the restaurant on social media sites, which led to some great coverage in the national news media. Furthermore, articles about the post still show up on a Google search engine results page (SERP) over two years after the post went viral.

No Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

As an article on The Huffington Post points out, several restaurants have tried to encourage better dining etiquette by offering a discount to customers when they put their smartphones away while they are at the dinner table.

Other restaurants have even gone so far as to ban the use of cell phones in their restaurants all together. As the Huffington Post article mentions, this policy has sometimes been met with outrage.

Whether people agree with this type of policy or not, it has generated some attention. Furthermore, it has gotten people to talk about whether or not cell phones should be used as much as they are at the dinner table.

Photo credit: Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

On the other hand, it also needs to be noted that this policy does prevent customers from taking photos of their food and sharing them on social media sites.

This, too, can be a great way to get people talking about the restaurant and possibly get them to visit the establishment in the future.

Hummus Diplomacy

In October of this year, NPR featured a story about an Israeli restaurant in Kfar Vitkin, north of Tel Aviv, that is giving a 50 percent discount to Jews and Arabs who eat together.

As reported in the NPR article, a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page stated, “Are you afraid of Arabs? Are you afraid of Jews? By us there are no Arabs, but also no Jews. We have human beings! And real excellent Arab hummus! And great Jewish falafel!”

According to NPR, “His post was shared more than 1,900 times, and news of the deal has made headlines around the world.”

At the time the article was written, the offer had only been redeemed by 10 tables. However, business has increased by 20 percent. The article mentions that a substantial part of the boost was from local and foreign journalists.

Please and Good Morning Saves You Money

Offering customers a discount for good manners can also generate good will and positive mentions online.

For example, a small coffee shop in Australia has a sign in front of the shop that says that the coffee is $5. If you say “please,” the coffee is $4.50 and it’s only $4 if you say, “Good morning, a coffee please.”

According to an article on the Daily Mail, the owners of the coffee shop don’t enforce the policy. However, they said it brings a smile to many of their customers’ faces and many customers go out of their way to be courteous.

Even if it isn’t enforced, the sign has created enough attention to be covered by online media outlets.

It is interesting to note that this idea was copied, with similar results, by a French café.

Free Meal to the Lonely on Thanksgiving

Okay, this one isn’t really about getting customers to change their actions.

In fact, it is actually the restaurant that is going out of its way to be courteous to its customers.

The buzz started when a customer posted a photo of a sign that was hung on the door of George’s Senate Coney Island Restaurant in Michigan that stated that anyone who would be home alone on Thanksgiving could come to the restaurant and get a free meal on November 26, 2015.

Not only did the story go viral on social media, it was covered by many of the traditional media outlets, as well.

And, while the restaurant will probably be giving out more meals than it originally planned, the free publicity that it received is priceless.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning of this post, the world would be a better place if people chose to be nicer to each other.

Businesses often have an opportunity to remind customers of this.

As shown in this post, incentivizing good behavior is not always met with open arms. In fact, sometimes, it is met with outrage.

However, when done correctly, little things that remind us that we need to coexist peacefully and show respect for others can get people talking about the business online. Sometimes, this will lead to further coverage in more traditional media outlets.

Furthermore, social sharing is only part of story. When customers search for information about the restaurant on Google or any of the other search engines, a positive story like this is likely to appear on a SERP well into the future. That might be enough to get potential customers to visit the restaurant long after the deal ends.

And, if nothing else, the business might start a conversation that can make the world a better place.

Photo credits: leyla.a and Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Buy Online, Pick Up in Store Isn’t a New Idea – But the Process Still Needs Improvement

Photo credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr.Offering customers the option to buy a product online and pick it up in the brick-and-mortar store is not new idea.

In fact, I remember Circuit City offering this option way back in the early 2000s.

However, even though the idea has been around for a while, many stores often fail to meet customers’ expectations.

In order to stay competitive, retailers are going to need to work on streamlining the process.

Why Offering This Option to Customers Is So Important

From the retailer’s perspective, offering the option of buying a product online and picking it up in store helps make the sale and saves the customer and/or the retailer money on shipping, which can still be costly even with the discounts that they receive from delivery companies based on the high-volume of shipments.

It is also something that retailers are being forced to offer based on the competition, as many stores are currently offering this option.

Furthermore, this is something that customers want.

In fact, according to the CFI Group, 75% of consumers indicate that the ability to order online and pick up the item in the brick-and-mortar store is somewhat or extremely important to them.

Retailers Currently Promise Quick Turnaround Times and an Easy Shopping Experience

On the surface, it looks like retailers have a good process in place to fulfill these orders, as many stores currently promise a relatively quick turnaround time.

In fact, according to a post on the Two Cents blog, many major retailers promise to have the order ready in one to four hours from when the order was first placed online. (The turnaround time promised varies by retailer. See the post for additional information.)

What Customers Are Experiencing

While retailers are promising quick turnaround times and a smooth buying experience, this is not always what they deliver.

In fact, according to a recent article on The Wall Street Journal, “A survey of over 1,000 online U.S.-based shoppers by JDA Software Group Inc. shows that, of 35% who opted to buy online and pick up goods in a store in the past year, 50% encountered problems getting their purchases. This is a surprisingly high failure rate of a strategy meant to offset the high costs of conducting e-commerce, said Wayne Usie, senior vice president of retail at JDA.”

Another article on the RetailWire site provides a case study that explains how one retailer botched an order that a customer placed online and opted to pick up in the store.

The comments on The Wall Street Journal and RetailWire articles provide some useful insights into the issues that customers and retailers face when taking advantage of this option.

For example, in a comment on The Wall Street Journal article, Gary Bernard points out that he used the buy online, pick up in-store option for an item that Walmart carried nationally, but didn’t have at his local store. He stated that he used the option in order to save the $5 delivery fee on a $10 item. And, as he explained, it took him about 8 minutes to get the item. After completing the transaction, he came to the conclusion that this option is good for certain items that can’t be purchased at the local store, but he wouldn’t use this option to buy one or two items that could be purchased by just walking into the store and buying them off the shelf. That said, he was satisfied with the process for this type of purchase.

Average Time Needed to Complete a Purchase

A Consumerist blog post written last year highlighted a study that was conducted in 2014 by StellaService that found that, on average, it took customers using the buy online, pick up in-store option less time from the time they entered the store to the time that they completed the checkout process than it took a traditional shopper who found and purchased items off the shelf.

However, this didn’t include the time it took for the store to collect the items for the shoppers and notify them that the items were ready. In the study, StellaService stated, “Items were available for pick up in just over an hour on average.”

It is also interesting to note that the average amount of time needed for the checkout process for the buy online, pick up in-store option took longer than the average time needed at the checkout desk for the traditional in-store shopper, at 3.1 minutes vs. 1.1 minutes, respectively.

Note: Many stores try to encourage traditional shoppers to spend more time shopping at stores, as this often leads to increased sales. However, efficiency at the checkout desk is something that all retailers strive for.

Some Key Issues to Consider

There are a lot of issues that need to be considered when developing the process for the buy online, pick up in-store option.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr.As a post on the Internet Retailer blog points out, proper training of store employees and adequate signage are extremely important to making this process work as it should. The post also highlights the fact that when you get customers to come to the store to pick up items that they purchased online, there is an opportunity to upsell other items. This can have a tremendous positive impact on the retailer’s bottom line.

In the comments section of the RetailWire post mentioned above, Melanie Nuce, VP, Apparel and General Merchandise, at GS1 US mentions that item-level RFID technology will also help fix some of the problems that retailers are experiencing with the buy online, pick up in-store option.

Final Thoughts

Retailers are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves by providing customers with options that make the shopping experience more convenient.

When done correctly, offering the option to buy online and pick up the items in the store can save customers and the retailer time and money. It also provides the retailer with another opportunity to get the customer in the brick-and-mortar store, which can lead to additional impulse buys.

However, as mentioned above, a study conducted by JDA Software Group Inc. found that often the processes that retailers currently have in place do not always work the way that they should.

These failures can hurt the retailer’s reputation, particularly if problems happen on a regular basis.

The good news is that people are already thinking about ways to improve this process.

Retailers that take the lead and are among the first to provide an efficient and smooth buying experience on a consistent basis should experience positive effects on their bottom lines not only through increased sales, but also through the decrease in expenses needed to get products into customers’ hands.

Keep in mind, successful retailers will need to continually improve the process, as positive word-of-mouth could lead to more customers using the service. This could strain the retailer’s resources even further and again lead to failures which could negatively impact future sales.

However, not offering the service might be worse than not trying at all, as many customers already say the option is important to them.

Photo credits: Mike Mozart and Mike Mozart on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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The Decrease in Social Sharing, Mobile Websites, and Dark Social

Photo credit: Pixel Addict on Flickr.Content marketing is a great way to generate leads for your business.

Smart businesses know this and have invested a lot of money into creating great content and optimizing it for search so that customers and prospects find their business when it is most important… when the customers and prospects need them.

But search engine optimization is only part of the equation. When it comes to content marketing, getting people to help share your message via social media is also important.

In fact, social sharing is one of four key social media metrics that Avinash Kaushik suggests businesses track. He refers to the social sharing metric as Amplification Rate. (The other three important social media metrics that he suggests that businesses track are: Conversation Rate, Applause Rate, and Economic Value.)

According to a post that Kaushik wrote in 2011, Amplification Rate is measured by tracking the number of times users share a piece of content per post.

In General, Amplification Rate Is Decreasing

In a recent post on the BuzzSumo blog, Steve Rayson points out that although some popular sites have increased the amount of content that they produce, the level of engagement with those posts has been trending downward.

In fact, after analyzing the shares and links of 1 million posts for a research project that BuzzSumo did in conjunction with Moz, they found that 75% of randomly selected posts received 39 shares or less. Furthermore, 50% of these randomly selected posts received 8 shares or less.

In the post, Rayson explains that while content supply has increased at an exponential rate, the fact that demand for content has remained relatively flat partially explains this decrease in content sharing. (Rayson cites Mark Schaeffer in the post. Schaeffer calls this “content shock.”)

In his post, Rayson also identifies three other factors that are compounding the content shock problem.

These three factors, or mistakes that content creators make, include: Lack of research, lack of amplification, and lack of monitoring.

I suggest reading the BuzzSumo post for further details.

Mobile Social Sharing Buttons

Recently, I have noticed that many businesses are not including social sharing buttons on their mobile websites and blogs. Is this by design or something that they have just overlooked? (In WordPress sites, a common social sharing plugin might be the issue, as I have noticed that many blog sites with the “floating” share buttons on their desktop version of their blog don’t have the social share buttons on their mobile sites.)

I wonder if this is another partial explanation for the overall downward trend in the rate of social sharing, given the fact that so many people are consuming content on mobile devices these days.

After doing a quick search on Google, I wasn’t able to find any hard numbers to verify my observation.

However, I was able to find an article on Marketing Land from 2013 that said that consumers were “nearly twice as likely to click and share content on social networks through mobile devices as opposed to desktop.”

This data might be outdated, as these numbers can change extremely quickly based on many different factors.

In fact, according to a post on their blog in May of 2015, Moovweb reported that “Only 0.2% of users ever click on a mobile sharing button. Mobile users click sharing buttons 35% less often that they do on the desktop.”

These numbers also need to be taken with a grain of salt because they based on a subsection of Moovweb customer data. (While Moovweb powers over 250 mobile experiences, these numbers might not reflect the state of social sharing on mobile websites, in general.)

That said, they may have uncovered some valuable insights that businesses can use.

According to the Moovweb blog post, “Just because sharing buttons have been popular on the desktop web does not mean they can be ported over with the same experience on the mobile web. And while 0.2% of mobile users clicking on a social sharing button is a minuscule figure, it does reflect the way social media usage on mobile has evolved: away from the web and toward apps.”

“Most mobile users access social networks via an app, so they are often not logged in to the corresponding social networks on the mobile web,” the blog post continues. “Pinterest, for example, gets 75% of its traffic from apps.”

Moovweb believes that the fact that users need to be logged in in order to share content is the reason for the low percentage of sharing on the mobile web. This creates extra steps that mobile users might not be willing to take.

“For starters you have to thumb type your username and password,” the author of the post writes. “If you’ve been saving your password in-app or in-browser, you might have forgotten it. Resetting a lost password is a huge hassle on mobile.”

Note: I have encountered social sharing buttons on mobile websites that require a user to log in to the mobile web and others that ask if I want to open the correct app, thus bypassing the need to type in a username and password again. This helps fix the problem that Moovweb identified. However, I am not sure if this option is available on every mobile device.

Sharing on Dark Social

To complicate things even further, there is the issue of users sharing links to content via email, SMS, instant messaging or some other way of electronic communication that does not fit neatly into what we usually classify as social media.

In an article for The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal classifies these types of referral sources as “dark social” because they are difficult to measure exactly which sources are driving users to a website.

At the time the article was written, Madrigal stated that dark social was nearly always the top referral source for The Atlantic.

This reflects the ever-changing way that people use social media and other electronic communication methods. And, again, mobile devices are helping drive this trend.

A recent post on the NeimanLab site helps illustrate the prevalence of “dark social” sharing.

As Joshua Benton explains in the post, when asked how often SMS and chat apps are used for sharing posts on BuzzFeed’s site, Stacy-Marie Ishmael stated that SMS was the most used way readers share BuzzFeed’s content, followed by Twitter, email, and Facebook. That means that two of the four most common ways that readers share BuzzFeed’s content on Android and iOS are not on standard social media sites. (It appears that this is only based on traffic received from mobile devices, but it is not clear based on the information provided in the article.)

If the way BuzzFeed’s readers share content is representative of the way all Internet users share content, businesses might need to find alternative ways to track what sources are driving traffic to their websites.

Note: Some of what might be classified as dark social sharing might, in fact, be a form of bookmarking posts so that users can read it later. For example, they might email an article that they find on their smartphone to themselves in order to read it later on a desktop computer.

Final Thoughts

There are many factors that play a role in whether content gets shared or not.

However, sometimes the problem is not the fact that users are not sharing the content, but that they are sharing it in ways that we can’t currently accurately track and measure.

Therefore, identifying the key issues that inhibit social sharing is not always easy to identify and might be even more difficult to fix.

Photo credit: Pixel Addict on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Machine Learning and the Future of SEO

Photo credit: Sam Greenhalgh on Flickr.Many of your current and future customers have found or will find your business by doing a search on Google or some other search engine. This is true whether you work for a Fortune 500 company or the mom-and-pop store down the street.

While many factors influence whether or not a searcher clicks on your website when it is listed on a search engine results page (SERP), studies have found that the higher the website ranks on a SERP, the more likely it is that a searcher will click.

It is for this reason that many companies, both large and small, are investing in search engine optimization (SEO).

The different factors that influence your ranking on a SERP are always changing. In fact, if the recent announcement from Google is an indication of the future, the way businesses optimize their websites for search may soon be completely different than it is today.

Hummingbird: Google’s Search Algorithm

According to a recent post on Search Engine Land, there are many factors or “signals” that determine where a webpage ranks on a Google SERP. The article on Search Engine Land was written as a follow-up to an article on that discusses a new signal Google is using in its search algorithm.

“Signals are things Google uses to help determine how to rank Web pages,” writes Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. “For example, it will read the words on a Web page, so words are a signal. If some words are in bold, that might be another signal noted. The calculations used as part of PageRank give a page a PageRank score that’s used as a signal. If a page is noted as being mobile-friendly, that’s another signal that’s registered.”

“Google has fairly consistently spoken of having more than 200 major ranking signals that are evaluated that, in turn, might have up to 10,000 variations or sub-signals,” Sullivan continues. “It typically just says “hundreds” of factors, as it did in yesterday’s Bloomberg article.”

SEO experts use these known signals as a guide to tweak websites so that they are Google friendly and hopefully rank higher on a Google SERP.

Introducing RankBrain

Google recently announced that they have added a machine-learning artificial intelligence system into the mix to help assist in determining where a site displays on a Google SERP. Google is calling this new machine-learning artificial intelligence system “RankBrain.”

“The problem is that Google processes three billion searches per day,” writes Sullivan. “In 2007, Google said that 20 percent to 25 percent of those queries had never been seen before. In 2013, it brought that number down to 15 percent, which was used again in yesterday’s Bloomberg article and which Google reconfirmed to us. But 15 percent of three billion is still a huge number of queries never entered by any human searcher – 450 million per day.”

“Among those can be complex, multi-word queries, also call “long-tail” queries,” Sullivan writes. “RankBrain is designed to help better interpret those queries and effectively translate them, behind the scenes in a way, to find the best pages for the searcher.”

With RankBrain, Google is using the information and knowledge gained from some past searches to better understand future complex searches. In other words, Google’s algorithm is learning from past searches and using that knowledge to help rank pages to deliver results that it feels searchers are actually looking for.

RankBrain Is a Very Important Signal

As the article on Search Engine Land points out, RankBrain is not replacing the Google algorithm. Currently, RankBrain is only one of the many signals Google uses to determine where a website shows up on a Google SERP.

That said, it has been less than a year since it was first used and RankBrain has already become the third-most important signal in the Google Hummingbird algorithm.

It is unclear exactly how many search results are impacted. However, what we do know is that “a very large fraction” of the search queries on Google are being processed by RankBrain.

And, while I haven’t heard Google confirm this, it is entirely possible that RankBrain could play a larger role in the future.

What Does This Mean for Business?

While Bloomberg did break the story of RankBrain in the media, SEO experts were already aware that something strange was happening with SEO that they were having difficulty explaining.

In fact, Market Motive had a webinar a couple of weeks earlier, titled “SEO Webinar: Rise Of The Machines: What Artificial Intelligence Could Mean For SEO.”

In the webinar, Danny Dover explained how Artificial Intelligence is being used to help determine where pages rank on Google SERPs. However, I don’t think he mentioned RankBrain by name.

After the webinar, I sent a tweet asking Mr. Dover if he thought there would be a day when SEO would not be possible because of AI and personalized results.

“Interesting question. I think SEO as we know it today will disappear rapidly but SEO as in marketing online content will stay,” Mr. Dover responded.

He then clarified by tweeting, “Rapidly might not be the best word, perhaps disappear (but with no specified timeframe.)”

After Bloomberg broke the story in the mainstream media, Tim Wang asked Mr. Dover whether it would affect link building strategies and/or content creation. Mr. Dover responded by tweeting, “Yup. Machine Learning (one technique used in AI research) relies on training data not factors (a small but important diff)”.

If Mr. Dover is correct, in the future businesses will need to adapt and develop new ways of making sure that their website is found when a user does a search on Google or any of the other search engines. (As the Search Engine Land article points out, Bing has been incorporating its own machine-learning system into its algorithm it uses to rank pages since 2005.)

Final Thoughts

The goal of most search engines is to provide the most useful results for searchers. In an effort to accomplish this goal, the search engines are constantly updating their algorithms that determine where a website shows up on a SERP.

What this means for business is that whoever is in charge of making sure that the business’s website is optimized for search, whether it be a person on staff or an agency that specializes in SEO, needs to stay current on the best practices and trends in SEO.

While machine-learning is currently only a part of Google’s algorithm it uses to determine where a website appears on a SERP, it is already the third most important signal. And, it is entirely possible that it could play a larger role in the future.

This means that, in the future, businesses might need to use different tactics to optimize the business’s websites for search.


Note: While I have completed Market Motive’s SEO Foundations training as part of the Digital Marketing Foundations Practitioner Certification, I am not an SEO expert. I wrote this post to help make business leaders aware of some of the changes that could have an effect on their SEO efforts. I am relying on information from trusted experts. As just mentioned, it is important that the person who is leading the business’s SEO efforts be trained in the most current SEO strategies and best practices for optimizing a website for search.

These are the series of tweets that I cited in the post:

Photo credit: Sam Greenhalgh on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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An Early and Online 2015 Holiday Shopping Season – Why REI Closing on Black Friday Is Good Business

Photo credit: Chris Phan on Flickr.The business world was buzzing this week about REI’s decision to close its brick and mortar stores on one of the busiest shopping days of the year—Black Friday.

While it might have cost them some money in the short term, it was a very savvy business decision for many reasons.

The most obvious reason… all the free publicity REI is getting as business reporters and bloggers attempt to list and defend the company’s possible reasons for this decision.

What follows is a list of some of the factors that the company might have considered before making its announcement on Monday.

Black Friday Sales Are Not the Event That They Once Were

As Nikki Baird points out in an article on, there aren’t many surprise Black Friday deals to be found on Thanksgiving Day thanks to sites like

“Shoppers can see the deals way before the day they become available, compare the products, and if they’re enterprising and on the ball, they can find deals just as good or better right now – in fact, there are now price trackers that will help shoppers predict when the price will be the lowest, and apparently that more often happens the Friday before Thanksgiving, not after,” writes Baird.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that The National Retail Federation reported that there was an 11 percent decline in total spending in the four-day period between Thanksgiving Thursday and Sunday in 2014, when compared to the previous year.

It is also interesting to note that according to Google, about one in four consumers who responded to a survey conducted in January of 2015 said they had done some holiday shopping before Halloween last year. If this is true again this year, many consumers are already in stores looking for the best deal on the perfect gift.

Many Shoppers Are Turning to the Internet for Their Holiday Shopping

According to the National Retail Federation, “Almost half of holiday shopping, consisting of browsing and buying, will be done online: average consumers say 46 percent of their shopping (both browsing and buying) this holiday season will be conducted online, up from 44 percent last year.”

An Emphasis on Employees and the Outdoors Resonates With REI’s Customers

In an effort to capture more of a consumer’s holiday budget, many stores are opening earlier and earlier each year. In fact, many retailers will be open in the early evening on Thanksgiving Day.

While people often turn out in droves, many consumers (and retail employees) complain that retailers are missing the point. They feel that the holidays should be reserved for family time, not shopping.

By closing on Black Friday and giving their employees a paid vacation day, REI is sending a message that the family, employee well-being, and getting outdoors during the holiday is important to them, too.

Part of the reason that REI is able to make this unorthodox business decision is that REI is one of the few large retail cooperatives in the nation, not a publicly traded company.

“That basic structure frees up the business to do things that don’t really make sense in conventional market terms,” says Erbin Crowell, executive director for the Neighborhood Foods Co-op Association in a recent Washington Post article.

“Even if an observer called it a marketing strategy, it’s a really intriguing one that points to the fundamental difference between co-ops and traditional public corporations,” says Crowell.

“Clearly they’re seeing their social purpose, their cooperative structure, has value again,” Crowell continues, “and it’s something they want to lift up and share.”

Final Thoughts

REI made a bold move when it decided to announce that its brick and mortar stores will be closed on Black Friday and that employees will receive a paid vacation day in honor of the holiday.

Many factors may have played a role in this decision, including the fact that many consumers have been getting some of their holiday shopping done before Black Friday. In fact, many start before Halloween.

It is also important to point out that while the brick and mortar stores will be closed, customers can still purchase items from REI online.

The free publicity that REI is getting is also an added bonus.

In the end, REI’s management are undoubtedly hoping that this decision will resonate with consumers and create loyal customers who identify with the brand and the values that REI feels are important.


Photo credit: Chris Phan on Flickr.

Video credit: CNNMoney on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Mobile Marketing Basics: The Importance of Mobile Optimization

Photo credit: Barn Images on Flickr.According to comScore, “191.1 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones (77.1 percent mobile market penetration) during the three months ending in August.”

This statistic alone illustrates why having a mobile marketing strategy is so important to the ongoing success of your business.

Mobile Optimization Is Key

Optimizing the business’s website for mobile devices is a very important way to generate leads and ultimately sales via a smartphone.

As an article in Search Engine Land points out, “When considering their mobile presence, local advertisers should take note of consumers’ preference for mobile websites over mobile apps: approximately 7 in 10 consumers prefer mobile websites over mobile apps when using a smartphone or tablet. This underscores the importance of ensuring that businesses build mobile-friendly websites that consumers can easily access.” (Note: This statistic is based on data collected in 2013 as part of the “Local Media Tracking Study” conducted by Burke, Inc. The study was based on interviews of 8,000 U.S. adults conducted online and by phone.)

It is interesting to note that many businesses haven’t taken advantage of this information. According to survey conducted by Yodle in June of 2013, “A majority of small business owners don’t have a website (52%) or a mobile-optimized website (90%).”

It is important to remember that technology adoption can change rapidly, as can consumers’ preferences. Therefore, since these numbers were collected in 2013, there is a chance that they are already outdated. That said, they still illustrate the importance of mobile optimization and the potential competitive advantage that can be gained.

Things to Consider

Another Search Engine Land article points out several factors that businesses need to consider when designing their mobile website and their mobile marketing strategy, in general.

Specifically, the article points out that a majority of consumers use their mobile devices when they are not at home. In fact, they often use their mobile devices when they are in stores. This means that the interactions that businesses have with consumers on their smartphones can immediately influence an in-store sale.

Furthermore, on-the-go consumers on mobile devices are action-oriented and search with local intent.

These are all important things to consider.

But, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Businesses need to take into account many factors, both digital and physical when designing their mobile websites. For example, if most of your customers are using your website on the go, you need to consider the connection speed of their mobile devices. With this in mind, creating a website that will load quickly and efficiently is key.

Also, people who are using a smartphone tend to want information that is found and consumed quickly.

As Adam Broitman, VP of global marketing at MasterCard points out in an article on, “Creating snackable content is critical as content is often consumed on a mobile device in the white spaces of one’s day—waiting for the train, between meetings, or any time between longer stretches of attention or activity.”

Final Thoughts

The number of consumers who own smartphones in the U.S. continues to rise.

These consumers are using their smartphones to interact with businesses in different ways than they do when they interact via a desktop computer or laptop.

Therefore, it is extremely important that businesses make sure that when consumers do interact with them via smartphones, consumers find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently.

Considering the fact that many consumers tend to gravitate to mobile websites when looking for information on a smartphone, it is crucial that websites are optimized for mobile devices.

This includes making sure that the website loads quickly and the format is visually appealing on a smartphone.

It also means that businesses need to try to anticipate consumers’ needs and provide the type of information that they look for when they are out and about.

Providing basic information about the business’s physical address (e.g. hours, location, phone number, etc.) is definitely is a good start.

But, that is just one of many things that businesses need to consider.

If a business can create a website that provides the experience that consumers expect on mobile devices, they can gain a competitive advantage over the competition that can help the business thrive well into the future.

Photo credit: Barn Images on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Why Sales and Customer Service Staff Should Be Trained in Marketing

Wonderlane on Flickr.Marketers and management know the effect that marketing has on the bottom line.

However, if the sales and customer service staff are not trained in marketing, the business could be missing out on opportunities to increase sales, now and in the future.

The Importance of a Strong Email List

A strong email list is very important to the bottom line.

Marketers know this.

In fact, as a recent eMarketer article points out, a study conducted by Ascend2 in January of 2015 found that email list growth remains a top focus for many marketers.

However, the same study found that 43% of the surveyed marketers said that list growth expertise was an obstacle to email list growth. A similar percentage (39%) said that problems forming an effective strategy hindered the growth of their email marketing list.

The study also examined which tactics marketers thought were most effective and which ones were most difficult for marketers who are looking to grow their email marketing lists.

It is interesting to note that only 11% said that getting customers to opt-in to receive emails while talking to the call center or via in-store capture was the most effective tactic for list growth.

Furthermore, about one in five surveyed marketers said that getting customers to opt-in while talking to the call-center or via in-store capture was the most difficult email list growth tactic.

There are many reasons why call center or in-store capture might be a difficult way to get many customers to opt-in to receive marketing emails.

However, part of the problem here might be the fact that while marketers and management know the value of the email list, sales and customer service staff are not always trained to know the positive effect that each email opt-in has on the business’s bottom line.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is already very important to the success of many businesses today. And, it will only play a larger role in the future.

Therefore, it is important that marketers and management continually look for ways to meet the needs of customers who are using mobile devices in many different settings.

Keep in mind, there are a lot of ways that customers can interact with your business via a mobile phone, including SMS, MMS, QR Codes, the mobile web, and proprietary mobile apps. The business might also partner with third party apps to help drive sales.

If customer service and sales staff are not trained on the latest ways mobile phones are being used to increase sales, the business will be missing out on an opportunity to educate the customer and possibly get an opt-in.

Furthermore, as I pointed out in a post last year, having sales and customer service employees who are not trained properly in the different ways that customers are interacting with the business via a mobile device can lead to frustration and delays in transaction time, which can lead to decreased customer satisfaction and fewer sales.

Some Possible Remedies

The most important thing is to provide proper training to your sales and customer service employees.

This will allow them to provide knowledgeable answers to questions about your mobile and email marketing campaigns. It will also give them the knowledge needed to “sell” customers on the value of downloading your mobile app or opting in to your email or SMS marketing campaigns.

Keep in mind, the hard sell is not needed and may end up backfiring.

More subtle techniques such as educating and showing customers all the ways that they can save money might be better.

For example, if the business offers discounts or coupons on their proprietary mobile app, have staff mention it to customers and educate them about how to use the app, if needed. If the brand is partnering with third-party apps, suggesting that customers use them might also be a good idea.

Furthermore, some stores offer discounts when customers opt-in to receive marketing emails at the cash register. This is something that your business might want to consider.

Final Thoughts

Marketers are trying to reach their customers in some very innovative ways in order to provide them with value that will lead to a sale.

Sales and customer service staff have a great opportunity to educate customers about the value that these marketing campaigns can provide.

However, this is only possible if sales and customer service staff are properly trained on the different ways that your business is marketing its products and services to customers and prospects.

Photo credit: Wonderlane on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Your Email Marketing Campaigns Could Cost More Than You Think

Internet email.Email marketing can be an effective way to reach your target audience.

However, sending too many email messages to the wrong audience or even the right audience at the wrong time might not only be a waste of time and money, but it might also hurt future sales.

Furthermore, if you don’t comply with the current laws and regulations, your business could face penalties that can have a huge impact on your bottom line.

If Done Correctly, Email Marketing Is Very Effective

As a recent eMarketer article points out, email marketing is a very valuable way to reach your customers and prospects.

The article points out that a recent study conducted by The Relevancy Group found that US marketing executives believe that email alone accounts for nearly the same amount of revenues as all other types of digital advertising combined.

The same eMarketer article cites an Econsultancy study that found that email marketing was thought to provide excellent or good ROI by more agency marketers than any other channel. And, only organic search was thought to have excellent or good ROI by more client-side marketers.

These stats definitely suggest that email marketing works.

Spam Is in the Eye of the Beholder

As I pointed out in a post back in 2011, sending email to the wrong person or even the right person at the wrong time can have a negative impact on a customer’s perception of your business.

Also keep in mind, what you think is relevant and what your customers and prospects think is relevant can often be two very different things.

That is why measuring and testing the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts is so important.


If your business is just starting to explore using email marketing, there are rules and regulations that you need to be aware of.

In particular, you need to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which was signed into law on December 16, 2003 by President George W. Bush. This law established the United States’ national standards for sending commercial email and is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

A YouTube video released by the FTC provides examples of the guidelines email marketers need to follow in order to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

These guidelines include requiring that you not use false or misleading header information or deceptive subject lines in your marketing emails. You must also clearly and conspicuously disclose that the email is an advertisement and the email must include your physical address.

The FTC video also points out that you must provide a way for recipients to opt-out of receiving future emails from your business. When someone contacts you to opt-out of your emails, you must delete them from your email database within 10 business days. Furthermore, once they unsubscribe, you can’t share their email address with any other marketers.

Finally, maybe the most important thing that they point out in the video is that you are responsible for complying with the law even if you hire a vendor to handle your email marketing efforts for you. Businesses that don’t comply with the law can face fines of up to $16,000 per violation.

Final Thoughts

Email is a very effective marketing tool if used correctly.

However, sending too many emails to the wrong people or to the right people at the wrong time can potentially have a negative impact on long-term sales.

Furthermore, it is absolutely necessary that you make sure that you are complying with the CAN-SPAM Act before you send out your marketing emails to customers and prospects.

If you use a vendor, be sure they are up-to-date on the current laws.

It is also in your best interest to check with a lawyer even if you are using a vendor to handle your email marketing. This will help ensure that your next email marketing campaign doesn’t cost you more than it’s worth.

Note: The information in the blog post is not legal advice. As just mentioned, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to ensure that all your email marketing efforts comply with current laws and regulations, including the CAN-SPAM Act.

Photo credit: on Flickr.

Video credit: Federal Trade Commission on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Narcissism and the Secret Sale: Using Specialness, Secrets, and Exclusive Offers to Increase Retail Sales

Photo credit: thekirbster on Flickr.

In her book, “Decoding the New Consumer Mind,” Dr. Kit Yarrow explains that there are increased levels of narcissistic thought and behavior among consumers in modern society.

Savvy retailers that know this can use this knowledge to their advantage in order to increase sales in their stores by providing exclusive offers that make their customers feel special and appreciated.

We All Have Narcissistic Qualities

“Narcissism is a personality style with powerful emotional components that drive interactions and purchasing needs,” writes Dr. Yarrow in her book. “Most people are not narcissists in a clinical sense of the word, but everyone has some narcissistic qualities. That is, we all exhibit some degree of superficiality, self-focus, a sense of invisibility, emphasis on the individual rather than the group, and high expectations of individual specialness.”

According to Dr. Yarrow, “Narcissism activates particular consumer needs to feel special and appreciated. These are obvious needs that are familiar to marketers. But more subtle factors come into play when we operate out of narcissism: most notably anger and competitiveness. Marketers need to understand the real roots of narcissism both because it’s on the rise and because it activates some of our deepest, darkest emotions. Understanding narcissism means better understanding what consumers want and need.”

Retail and the Narcissistic Consumer

Dr. Yarrow points out that given the fact that narcissism exists in all of us to some extent, marketers would be wise to harness the allure of specialness, exclusivity, secrets, and social rankings.

CatnipExamples given in the book include the “secret” menu at the fast-food restaurant In-N-Out Burger, early access to sales for department store credit card holders, and exclusive coveted offerings for Facebook fans, special consumers, and Twitter followers.

Dr. Yarrow also suggests that by intentionally leaving sale price items unmarked, a retail store could increase sales for some high-priced items.

This “secret sale” that associates let customers know about can make customers think that they are getting special treatment.

In my opinion, this gives the sales associate a chance to create trust with the customer that could also increase sales in the future. There is also an opportunity for the retail store to use mobile technology to deliver value to the customer if the information is delivered via the store’s mobile app.

As Dr. Yarrow points out, secrets are exciting and create a bond between the shopper and the store. She also points out that this tactic works for all consumers, not just the more narcissistic shopper.

Final Thoughts

Knowing what motivates consumers to take action can help businesses make better decisions and create situations that increase sales.

As this post explains, the rise of narcissism in society has made it more important for brands and retailers to create experiences that make the customer feel like he or she is getting something that other customers are not aware of.

This can help the business reach short-term sales goals. It can also lead to future sales by strengthening the bond between the customer and the business.

Photo credit: thekirbster on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Is SMS Marketing Still Effective? The Answer Is YES!

Photo credit: Patrik Nygren on Flickr.In March of 2015, an eMarketer article asked, “Are we watching the death of SMS?”

The author’s case is based on the fact that while the total number of SMS messages worldwide is projected to decrease in the near future, the total number of messages in over-the-top (OTT) mobile-messaging services such as WeChat is projected to skyrocket.

In the past, other experts have also suggested that SMS has peaked and will decrease in value as a marketing vehicle as time goes on.

However, others have made a case that the shear increase in messaging volume does not mean that consumers are getting more value from OTT mobile-messaging services than from SMS.

In fact, Michael Becker, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at mCordis, makes the case that consumers may be more concise in getting their point across when using SMS. He also points out that SMS has no fragmentation, it has reach, it can be used for a wide variety of purposes, and marketers can control the timing and content of interactions when they get their customers to opt-in to receive SMS messages from the business.

Jeff Hasen, founder and president of the mobile consultancy Gotta Mobilize, is also an advocate of SMS marketing.

In a Mobile Commerce Daily article, Mr. Hasen is quoted as saying, “The most savvy marketers have decided this is a quality game and not a quantity game.”

The article goes on to point out that SMS is proven to drive business results.

The article also points to the fact that the average texter is older than 40 years old and 80 percent of consumers who have a mobile phone text on a regular basis.

Furthermore, one of the most interesting stats out there comes from the recently released Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Mobile Marketing. It states that, “90% of SMS messages are opened and read within the first 90 seconds of receipt.”

The Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Mobile Marketing also states, “In recent years, mobile SMS marketing has pushed forward to become one of the most desirable forms of marketing available. The number of people with cell phones capable of texting has grown rapidly in the past few years and so it makes sense that texting is swiftly becoming the best way to reach a customer. The low cost and flexibility make it great for businesses, while its ability to deliver offers instantly leaves customers wanting more.”

Research sponsored by SAP confirms these findings.

Their report, titled “The SMS Advantage: How enterprises can leverage the power of SMS,” is based on a survey that looks at how consumers respond to mobile engagement and explores which mobile technologies are most effective.

According to this report, “Three-quarters of respondents state that SMS serves to improve the overall brand experience when communicating with businesses.”

The report also finds that “64% of consumers believe that businesses should use SMS to interact with customers more often than they do currently.”

Final Thoughts

There are many ways that consumers can communicate today.

While the projected volume of SMS messages is not has high as the projections for OTT mobile-messaging services, it doesn’t mean that SMS has lost its value.

In fact, SMS traffic is still at near record highs and most likely will continue to be used on a regular basis by many consumers in the years to come.

Furthermore, not only are many consumers still using it, but many think of it as a great way for businesses to communicate with them.

If businesses deliver quality and offer value to customers via text messages, SMS will continue to drive business results, now and in the foreseeable future.

Photo credit: Patrik Nygren on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, freelance writer, content curator, applied sociologist, and a proud UW-Madison alumnus. My goal is to help businesses achieve their marketing objectives and business goals while gaining additional experience in the exciting world of digital marketing. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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