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You Are What You Wear: The Rise of Wearables and Customization in the Apparel Industry

Posted by Ed Loessi

Thu, Nov 10, 2016

I’d describe the fashion sensibility in our Boston office as…eclectic. The khaki and button-down/dresses and heels faction (hello Financial Services team!) mingles easily with the flannel and sneakers crowd (hello pretty much everyone else!). Of course, when it’s time to head to a conference or awards dinner, even the most casual CMBer will toss on something that’s appropriate to the occasion and crowd.

For most of us, especially those of us in professional services, our approach to work fashion is deeply influenced by a tension between expressing ourselves and fitting in. This tension finds an analog in two concepts from consumer psychology:

  • Personal Identity: How much a consumer’s relationship to a brand plays into their self-image and self-esteem
  • Social Identity: The sense of belonging or kinship consumers feel with others who use the brand

In recent blog posts we’ve discussed our work with the consulting firm VIVALDI to take a fresh look at their 2010 “Social Currency” concept. We evaluated how 90 brands across five industries fit into the lives of consumers.  Our results revealed seven critical components of consumers’ experience that brands must strengthen to influence the experiences and behaviors that drive engagement, purchase, and loyalty. Chief among these consumer experiences are Personal and Social Identity – which in the apparel industry are exemplified by the rise of customization and wearables.

sc pyramid.png

Customization

To keep up with the generation of customization and Millennial’s preference for personalization, brands now offer customizable products to their customers. Take footwear giant Converse. Converse is a subsidiary of Nike, Inc., which was the best performing brand in our 2016 Social Currency Report (across all industries) with an indexed Social Currency composite score of 120. 

While Converse still maintains its classic white Chuck Taylors, the brand has moved into the customization space to satisfy those consumers seeking personalization.  Customers can personalize their Converse, selecting everything from shoe type, height, collection, color, and size. Even though consumers are still “fitting in” by sporting the notable Converse brand, the personalized shoes also satisfy their need to express themselves.

Although not limited to apparel, the ability to offer customization on a broad and relatively affordable scale offers a tremendous opportunity to support and reflect fashion consumers’ personal identities in particular. [Tweet this!]

Wearables 

Brands that do well are those that continue to find ways to meet the needs of their customers. Enter the rise of wearable technology. Why? Because wearables can enhance both a consumer’s personal and social identity. Let’s again look at Nike. Nike scored 119 in Social Identity in our 90-brand study – highlighting its success in fostering a sense of belonging and kinship among its customers.

Nike entered the wearable space a few years ago with the introduction of the Nike FuelBand. Even though FuelBand had a short life, it was this wearable that got people engaging and competing with other users (even though FitBit was already in the market).

So why is the short-lived FuelBand’s narrative important? Because it underscores Nike’s commitment to finding innovative ways to enhance customers’ personal and social identities. Even though the physical bracelet didn’t work out, Nike remained committed to the wearable tech space by introducing Nike+, an Apple and Android compatible app that connects Nike users to its online fitness community.

And Nike isn’t the only successful brand in wearables. Many other companies that our report looked at are invested in wearable technology, notably ones that have scored high in Social Currency:

Social Currency - fashion.png

Notice the top scoring brands we measured are each engaged in wearable tech. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s a consumer’s world and brands are just living in it

A key finding of our research (you can download our free report on apparel here) is that consumers are loyal to brands that fit seamlessly into their lives and help them express who they are, what they like, and who they feel connected to. For example, does a brand reinforce a consumer’s self-image? Is a brand fostering a sense of belonging or kinship among its customers—a hallmark of true consumer-centricity? If brands can answer “yes” to the above, they’re doing something right.

 

Ed is CMB's Director of Product Development and Innovation. He thinks there is a game-changing product or idea within everyone, and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi.

Get our FREE apparel report and learn how Social Currency can help brand transformation:

Get the Report

And check out our interactive dashboard for a sneak peek of Social Currency by industry:

  Interactive Dashboard

Topics: brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, retail research, Social Currency

How Top Beer Brands Brew up Social Currency

Posted by Ed Loessi

Thu, Sep 08, 2016

Last month, we released the results of our 5 industry, 90 brand study: Business Transformation through Greater Customer-Centricity: The Power of Social Currency—a collaboration between CMB and VIVALDI. In the coming weeks we’ll release 5 industry specific reports covering Beer, Fashion, Airlines, Automobiles, and Restaurants. This week we’re taking a closer look at 14 of the top brands in the Beer Industry in our new report: The Power of Social Currency: Business Transformation in the Beer Category.

For those of you who have been following these posts, you’ll recall that the genesis of this research was VIVALDI’s Social Currency concept. Introduced in 2012, Social Currency is a framework for understanding brands’ ability to fit into how consumers manage their social lives in today’s social, digital, and mobile context. Measuring and understanding the 7 dimensions (below) of Social Currency are critical to building strong brands in today’s market. The age of the brand ambassador is over—consumers don’t act in service of brands, they act in service of themselves—interacting with and promoting brands that help them express themselves.

SC_Pyramid.png

The wide world of beer

By most industry statistics, Americans consume just north of 6 billion gallons of beer every year. Thousands of varieties of beer are crafted in over 3,400 breweries across all 50 states. Although 90% of the beer is produced by just 11 companies, there is still an immense amount of brand building, marketing, advertising, and storytelling aimed at beer drinkers. Truthfully, this is the stuff of nightmares for brand builders. It’s one thing to be in a competitive market; it’s an entirely different thing to be in a market with so many companies trying to build a brand for a product that pretty much looks the same when poured into a glass. Whoa now! I’m sorry if I’m offending the beer connoisseurs, I realize that I’m ignoring the the vast differences between hoppy IPAs, chocolatey stouts, and Belgian Saisons, but you get the idea.

If you’re going to build a strong brand for beer today, you need to understand the personal and social identities of the consumer. You need the customer to know who the drinker of that beer is – is s/he a quirky creative, independent thinker, old-school beer and barbecue, or the person looking for that next beach party? From that, you need to create the social opportunities and content that allow each of those consumers to express themselves through your brand.

Each of the five brands (pictured below) that topped our measure of Social Currency, have established a clear picture of the person who drinks their beer and they understand why that’s important. Each brand has worked hard to provide engaging social and content opportunities for their consumers.

top5beers.png

How are these companies using Social Currency to build their beer brands?

Sam Adams: The Boston Beer Company’s co-founder, Jim Koch, embodies the brewery’s spirit of independence. This independence has manifested itself in the name chosen for their famous lager – Sam Adams Boston Lager, and it has been a part of the brand message since the very beginning. Their most recent commercial “Stay Independent” keeps to that message and entices the independent thinker to become a drinker of Sam Adams. The personal identity of the Sam Adams beer drinker is very clearly the independent thinker, not your average corporate beer drinker.


Budweiser:
The “King of Beers” – if anyone would have cause to worry about the numerous competitors in this market, it’s the King. But, this King still has his crown. Long known for its unique Super Bowl ads, Budweiser came out of the gate this past year with a bold attack on craft beer drinking. Budweiser reasserted its beer as “not craft”, “not imported”, “not small”, and “not backing down”. In delivering this message, against the powerful backdrop of its famous Clydesdale horses, it also reasserted the identity of its target market, the no-nonsense, deeply rooted and not swayed by the trends of the day beer drinker. This identity is strong and reliable.

 
Corona: Simple message - sand, sun, and lime wedges! Corona has long been associated with those beautiful summer days being pursued by happy people, looking for a place to relax, and have fun. Corona has used these simple messages extremely well and has built a perfect image of the personal identity of someone who drinks Corona.


The beer industry is unlike other consumer industries. It has a concentrated power base regarding brewing capacity, but its brand managers, marketers, advertisers, and social media teams must deal with literally thousands of brands in the form of small brewers competing for the same customers. Understanding how to use Social Currency is of vital importance in building a brand. By crafting messages that align with consumer’s personal and social identity, and creating social and content opportunities, beer companies can differentiate themselves in this crowded market. So pull up a stool, grab a pint, and learn how Social Currency helps insights professionals and marketers create content, and share the messages that support consumer identity—spurring engagement, purchase, and advocacy.

Ed is CMB's Director of Product Development and Innovation. He thinks there is a game-changing product or idea within everyone, and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi.

Download the beer report and let us show you how Social Currency can enable brand transformation:

Get the Report

And check out our interactive dashboard for a sneak peek of Social Currency by industry:

Interactive Dashboard

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty, retail research, Social Currency

Getting Virtual at IIR Omnishopper: The Future of Retail

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Jul 26, 2016

cy.pngAt this month’s IIR Omnishopper conference, all anyone could talk about was Pokémon Go.  Several research suppliers told me they’d downloaded it and everyone was marveling at its stellar adoption and usage rates.  I had my 13 year old son’s account on my mobile device, so I began the conference naively thinking ‘I’ll go out before the sessions start and catch a few Pokemon for him.’  I couldn’t stop, and despite the fact that CMB works with leading gaming companies, and we’ve got more than a few die-hard gamers on staff, I don’t consider myself a gamer.

How had I morphed into Cheffen Yobs from the moment I began to play? The answers are a case study in consumer motivation:

  • Primary motivation/goal: My initial, primary motivation/goal for Pokémon Go, of course was getting more creatures and points because why not? It was a hot new marketing opportunity and I anticipated being able to talk about it over lunch at the conference (the game rates high on helping me build my social and personal identity)!
  • Secondary motivation/goal: I quickly learned that Pokémon Go has history embedded in each stop, so I started learning interesting things about the city of Chicago. This motivated me to alter my destinations, because I was curious about a particular building or statue. I was looking in the ‘corners’ of Chicago city center, and I was discovering new art, new monuments, and new bridges.  Over the course of the 3-day conference, I walked through several great sections of Chicago. I went to about 12 hours of conference material but I set my clock to wake up earlier to play that game.  Typically at a conference I fly in and then I sit.  And I sit. And I sit.   
  • Unintended benefit: Many of my colleagues share their gamified solution to fitness at our office, and they push each other to exercise more, but my life is hectic and I just don’t add fitness to my priority list. Imagine my surprise when one of the unintended benefits of my trip was that I actually walked 10 km in a level of heat that I can’t even describe, and I didn’t even know I had walked so much until I got home and my son told me!

Questions and excitement about Pokémon Go also found their way into the conference sessions.  The Mall of America’s Emily Shannon talked about the Mall’s digital strategy. There’s the mundane—assigning every bathroom a different text number so you can text that the bathrooms are dirty, and there’s the delicious—hungry shoppers can ask ‘where can I get a great ice cream?’ and because the Mall of America has 12 ice cream stores, the Mall staff ask further questions about the ice cream preference (via text) and deliver an exceptional experience.  Shannon said that the Pokémon Go was definitely delivering the excitement and enthusiasm that are central to the Mall of America’s value proposition, so they were meeting and selecting strategies to increase engagement and delight among mall goers.  In the week following the conference, the Mall of America has launched a Trainer Lounge and tips for playing Pokémon Go at the Mall. 

The conference was exactly about engaging consumers along the path of discovery through purchase and repurchase to loyalty and advocacy.  Each presenter had a different take, and each brought us through their approaches, from full body Virtual Reality to eyeglass technology, cash register data, landscape assessment, qualitative consumer diary, strategy platforms, ideation, and survey trends.  Many speakers, including Ron Wetklow of Treasury Wine Estates, to Scott Young of from PRS IN VIVO, and Laura-Lynn Freck, of Red Bull talked about digital engagement driving physical engagement. 

In the consumer insights industry, engagement, primary and secondary motivations and unintended consequences are central to our work.  In the weeks since the conference, I’ve logged in a few times, but I don’t feel motivated to play.  Why?  1) the history of my suburb just isn’t that exciting, 2) there are only a few stops near my house and it’s not that interesting to go to the same spot 10 times 3) thanks to in-group norms—I’m not going to stand outside the library with 10 kids under 18 years old to play a game on my mobile device because they’re ‘not my tribe’. But, combine the game with my frequent traveling and make me learn stuff on my timetable and maybe even talk to people and I’ll play every time.  It’s been 10 days since the conference and I see the game everywhere, my bet is on the brands who can “catch” the opportunities that come from these uber-engaging tech-enabled phenomena.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

Did you miss our recent webinar on the power of Social Currency measurement to help brands activate the 7 levers that encourage consumers to advocate, engage, and gain real value? You're not out of luck:

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Topics: technology research, consumer insights, conference recap, customer experience and loyalty, retail research

Getting Your Customers Beyond Price

Posted by Cara Lousararian

Tue, Mar 15, 2016

online_shopping.jpgCall me lazy or call me smart, but I now do nearly all of my gift shopping online. Shopping online is easy, but it also brings up a whole new question around loyalty to specific brands and retailers. Five to ten years ago, I felt like getting the best price/deal was more important to me than shopping for specific brands or at specific retailers. Maybe it’s because I’m older, earn more money, or buy for more people (hello, in-laws!), but I’ve started considering other things than just price, such as:

  • Return policy timeline. A 2 week return policy doesn’t cater to the super-organized planners (like me) who want to buy presents well in advance
  • Ease of returns. A gift that can’t be easily returned is an inconvenience, so I look for retailers with hassle-free returns
  • Product warranty or guarantee. Sure things break, but I definitely don’t want my recipient to pay for a replacement

Because you can’t feel, touch, or smell products that you buy online, other factors play a much more important role in the decision making process—I’ll pay a higher price for something just because I know the store and its policies are convenient for me and those that I’m shopping for. We’ve all gotten that ugly sweater without a gift receipt. No one wants to be “the bad gift giver” (sounds like a Seinfeld thing, right?).

Two retailers who get my business, despite the higher price tag, are Nordstrom and L.L. Bean. Here’s why they have my loyalty:

  • Last Christmas, I participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange with my husband’s family, and I was assigned my husband’s 25-year-old cousin. While I could have just bought him a Patriots t-shirt, I wanted to be more creative and thoughtful. I went to Nordstrom.com because of their superior return policy—they take anything back at any time. This allowed me to take more of a gamble on choosing his present because he could easily return or exchange it if he didn’t like it.
  • My sweet rescue dog, Nala, has an obsession with trying to “soften” her bed (i.e., paw at it repeatedly with her sharp nails). I’ve had her for 6 years, and I have lost count of the number of beds I’ve had to buy to replace ones that she’s ripped to shreds. I took a look at L.L. Bean’s dog beds because I know the store’s return policy and product guarantee rivals most other stores. I had a bit of sticker shock when I realized I would be spending $200 on a bed for my dog, but the extra expense was worth it knowing that I can return or exchange the bed at any time for I know that L.L. Bean will stand behind the product and will replace it at no additional cost to me. 

Online shopping has made it easy to switch brands/retailers with the click of a button, and this undoubtedly has an impact on customer loyalty. In this world of information overload, it’s becoming harder and harder for brands and retailers to truly differentiate their offerings, especially when they lack a captive audience in their physical store locations. 

This is where discrete choice modeling and/or segmentation can come in handy—especially when there’s a need to dive deeper into uncovering purchase drivers outside of price—since most consumers will tell you they want all of the product’s bells and whistles for the lowest possible price. At CMB, we spend a lot of time in the up-front design phase, as well as in the analysis phase, combining the art and science of research to help bring the customer journey to life. This is where proper questionnaire design trumps speed as we strive to keep the story and research insights at the forefront. 

How are you prioritizing customer convenience and experience?   

Cara is a Senior Research Manager at CMB and plans to buy stock in Nordstrom and L.L. Bean after reviewing her recent credit card transactions.

Our new Consumer Pulse study explores Millennial attitudes and behaviors toward banking and finance.

Download the full report here!

Topics: customer experience and loyalty, market strategy and segmentation, retail research

See Spot Learn About Segmentation

Posted by Alyse Dunn

Tue, Mar 01, 2016

millennial_with_dog-1.jpgIn the past 5 years, pet ownership has increased by ~3%. 3.7 million more Millennials own pets than their Boomer counterparts, and these numbers are expected to increase. Like millions of other American households, my fiancé and I have a dog. But, as some of my friends have pointed out, we are a very specific type of dog owner. We go out of our way to look for pet events (we went to two dog Halloween parties last year) and pet friendly vacations, and we have even stopped staying out late because we need to get home to her. She’s not just a dog—she’s our fur baby and a member of our family. We’re part of a growing “Pet Connection” movement that was unheard of 20 years ago.

In the “Pet Connection” movement, owners see pets as family members and desire to involve their pets more in the day-to-day. These owners are, on average, twice as likely to spend more on their pets to ensure their pets’ health and happiness. This growing population is a great example of why segmentation research has an expiration date—behaviors change, disruption happens, and segments evolve.

Companies conduct segmentations to better understand types of consumers and how those consumers will behave. The critical element to any segmentation scheme is an affirmative to this question: “can we act on this?” If your segmentation doesn’t accurately represents consumers’ behavior, it’s a waste of time and money. Your segmentation’s expiration date is highly dependent on industry and disruptions in the market—there’s no hard and fast timeline. However, it’s important to keep a critical eye on the market and the changing needs of your customers to understand if your existing segmentation is still useful. If there’s a lot of change in customer behavior or if a segment is not acting as expected, it may be time to renew and refresh the research.

If this dog movement has taught me anything, it’s that people do change (myself included) and things people may have advocated for previously may no longer fit in with their lifestyle. It’s important to recognize that those changes can happen in any industry and can occur for any reason (it isn’t always about man’s best friend). So, to continue to stay ahead of the market and to deliver to customers, you need to understand how your company’s segmentation is being used and evaluate whether the segmentation needs to be refreshed so you can keep up with your customers and their four-legged friends.

Alyse is a Data Manager at CMB. She has a 1.5 year old long haired miniature dachshund and is known to embarrass herself for the love of her dog.

We recently did a webinar on research we conducted with venture capital firm Foundation Capital on Millennials and investing. Insights include a Millennial segmentation, specific financial habits, and a look into the attitudinal drivers behind Millennials' investing preferences. 

Watch here!

Topics: millennials, market strategy and segmentation, retail research

Punxsutawney Phil Predicts a High Open Rate

Posted by Caitlin Dailey

Thu, Feb 18, 2016

groundhog_day.pngRemember when clerks asked for our email addresses? Now, at many stores, we’re just told to give it. The result is an inbox flooded with promotions and “flash sales” from so many places that you can’t keep track of which brand is offering what. We’re bombarded with so many emails—which we may not have even wanted in the first place—that hearing the ding of a new message has become more of an annoyance than a delight. Are people even reading these emails anymore? And if they aren’t, just how effective are email marketing campaigns these days? 

Over the past couple of years, people have debated whether email marketing is still lucrative. Email services like Gmail are getting smarter—allowing consumers to curate their emails more effectively, which further complicates the matter for marketers. Still, most marketers agree that while it’s a viable tactic, email marketing strategies need to be adjusted so emails ultimately deliver positive interactions that drive results. This means ditching the “batch and blast” and moving to a more personalized approach. Combining market segmentation and database analytics, marketers can be smarter about which messages get delivered to which customers. 

Segmentation is indisputably powerful, but, once you’ve targeted your audience, there are rules of thumb for creating emails worth opening. According to this Entrepreneur article, your email should do one (or more) of four things: solve a problem, save your recipients money, make them smarter, or entertain them. I recently received an email that checked off two of these boxes, creating interest for me to read past the subject line...

On February 1st, DSW sent me a promotional email with the subject line: “Tomorrow, Phil’s deciding our deal.” Because the next day was Groundhog Day, I was interested enough to open the email and see how this related to a shoe sale. The email said that the deal would either be 25% off boots or 25% off sandals. The next day, I got the following message: “Groundhog says. . .25% off sandals for an early spring!” If Punxsutawney Phil had predicted 6 more weeks of winter, we would have received 25% off boots. It was a really clever and engaging (and money saving) way to stand out among the sea of promotions and campaigns I receive every day. Now, I can only hope that I’ll get a chance to wear my new sandals before May. 

If you’re looking for new ways to reach your customers with more personalized/relevant messages and you need help targeting them, check out our segmentation capabilities here

Caitlin Dailey is a Project Manager at CMB. Outside of work, she is a company dancer with DanceWorks Boston. After last year’s winter, she is glad that Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring!

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Topics: marketing strategy, customer experience and loyalty, market strategy and segmentation, retail research

Will the Sun Set on British Brands?

Posted by Josh Fortey

Thu, Feb 04, 2016

British-brands.pngAdele, One Direction, Burberry, Downton Abbey, Kate Middleton, the Royal Family, and, of course, myself… the British are once again invading the shores of the U.S.

Young British musicians continue to take the American music industry by storm—in 2012, four out of five of the top five selling albums in the U.S. were from British artists. Just last December, approximately 10 million fans fought over 750,000 tickets for Adele’s upcoming 2016 tour. The entertainment industry is not the only one seeing dollar signs with this British Invasion. Coffee shop and fast food chain, Pret a Manger, plans further U.S. expansion after successful stints in Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Chicago, building on its brand of fresh, prepared products.

It’s clear that Britain as a brand has been riding a positive wave in the U.S. in recent years with the London Olympics and the birth of the Royal Prince and Princess acting as potential catalysts. The allure of international expansion into the American market, therefore, seems the most logical step for British brands looking for the next stage of growth. According to a Barclays study in 2013, the U.S. was considered the top current market for sales growth for British retailers, but it was also considered the toughest overseas market to break. British supermarket chain Tesco found out firsthand the difficulty of attempting to break the American market. Pre-packaged, fast-food meals have been a staple product on the shelves of British grocery chains for years, and the research, Tesco believed, seemed to suggest this could work among U.S. consumers. However, a lack of familiarity with this style of eating, the onset of the 2007 depression when Tesco’s “Fresh & Easy” chain launched, and the higher associated costs in comparison to buying fresh produce ultimately resulted in a failed $1.8 billion gamble when Tesco withdrew from the market in 2013.

The notable failure of Tesco is a stark reminder of the potential pitfalls for British retailers looking to expand into the U.S. market. While there is clear admiration for the quality and culture of British brands, any decision a British business makes in deciding to jump over the Atlantic should be highly researched and strategized. Any brand looking to break into a new international market should build their decision on a solid foundation of research, with some key research criteria identified below:

  • Identify a target market: The world is a big place. With over 200 possible markets, identifying the correct target market is critical. How have previous brands fared when venturing into new potential markets? How do exports fair? What are the current economic conditions, and do these favor new entries into the market?
  • Market conditions: GDP growth, birth rate, employment rate, and inflation rate—all of these are among a variety of macro-level economic indicators that can help gauge market condition.
  • Opportunity: Is there identifiable demand for your product in the market, and do consumers have a familiarity with your offering? Is the market existing and mature, or is it in its infancy?
  • Consumer preferences: While consumers can appear to share certain elements of cultural identity, this does not necessarily mean that they share the same purchase and consumption culture. Pret a Manger has understood this, adapting its style of service and menu for the U.S., where its coffee is self-serve, unlike the Barista approach taken in Britain.  
  • Competitive situation and positioning: Understanding the competitive situation and brand positioning of competitors can help you gauge how to uniquely position your brand to acquire market share. British brands seeking to enter the U.S., for example, can leverage perceptions of heritage and quality to command a greater price premium, but must emphasize its position and point of difference in ways that meet consumer needs.
  • Market sizing and growth potential: Have we identified our target market? Are we confident there is an opportunity? Do we have an idea of the kind of consumer we could attract and where our brand sits? Do we understand the current competitive landscape and current levels of competitor usage? Knowing the answers to these questions when entering a new market requires a market sizing task to understand the financial opportunity or return on investment. 

There has been a lot of buzz in the CMB office recently around the Boston debut of low-priced fashion retailer Primark (which is only about a half mile walk from the office). This is a hugely successful and cult brand in the U.K., but time will tell if the Irish retailer has effectively researched and gauged its ability to seduce the American consumer with its own brand of discount fashion, or whether, like many before it, they have underestimated the difficulty of breaking the U.S. market.

Josh is a Project Manager at CMB. Having recently entered the U.S. market himself, he is hoping his own brand of British fares better than Tesco’s.

We recently did a webinar on research we conducted with venture capital firm Foundation Capital on Millennials and investing. Insights include a Millennial segmentation, specific financial habits, and a look into the attitudinal drivers behind Millennials' investing preferences. 

Watch Here!

Topics: international research, brand health and positioning, market strategy and segmentation, retail research, growth and innovation

Black Friday Is Dead…Long Live Black Friday

Posted by Megan McManaman

Tue, Dec 22, 2015

retail2.pngIf you noticed the annual coverage of Black Friday shoppers seemed somewhat muted this year, you weren’t imagining things. While Cyber Monday sales were the highest since its debut in 2005, Black Friday sales were at their lowest since 2011. We all know how many elves flew (or didn’t) off the shelves, but to learn more about consumer holiday shopping behaviors, we partnered with Research Now for a quick survey of smartphone owners, ages 18 and up. 

Does 2015 mark the end of Black Friday—retail’s highest and holiest holiday? One retailer, REI, even opted out of this year’s Black Friday altogether, though their website did allow shoppers to make purchases online. The 87% of respondents who reported shopping on Black Friday might suggest that its imminent death is exaggerated. But the 81% of those Black Friday shoppers who did at least some of their shopping online suggest the explosion of ecommerce may have circumscribed the usual Black Friday frenzy.   

And then we have mobile—2015 marked the introduction of app-only deals from retail giants Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Of respondents who did shop from their smartphone or tablet, on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday, a full 27% purchased through an app. Still, a Cyber Monday dominated by in-app sales may be a few years away—61% of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday online shoppers used a PC to make their purchases. 

Need further evidence that online shopping and mobile technology are disrupting the traditional holiday shopper customer journey? “Just” 67% of Black Friday deal-seekers said they actually braved a brick and mortar store—this on a day once defined by the in-store experience. Is nothing sacred? 

Megan is CMB’s Senior Product Marketing Manager. She can’t stand Christmas music and was once visited by 3 ghosts. 

Topics: technology research, mobile, retail research, customer journey

Star Wars Marketing: Full Light Speed Ahead

Posted by Julia Powell

Thu, Dec 10, 2015

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens-1.jpgUnless you have been living in exile on the swampy planet Dagobah, you may have noticed that December 18th marks the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There are reminders in every corner of the consumer landscape from Chewbacca Spiced Latte Coffeemate peering out of the dairy freezer to Limited Edition Star Wars lipsticks from Covergirl (including silver and gold but not Chewbacca). Star Wars-licensed clothing abounds from discount retailer Primark to The Gap and more. There are Star Wars shoes available ranging from Crocs (complete with Yoda-sound emitting add-ons) to customizable Superstar 80s from Adidas.

Of course, there are toys, too, featuring characters from the previous films and The Force Awakens. These were launched in grand fashion with “Force Friday,” which took place on September 4th 2015 (falling conveniently ahead of the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons). There have been three months of merchandise build up, with more character items set to be released after the full plot of the film is revealed. While witnessing the amazing treasure trove of merchandise and brand tie-ins, I couldn’t help but wonder, how did LucasFilm’s promotion of the first film compare to Disney’s current efforts with The Force Awakens?

A long time ago (38 years) in a galaxy far, far away, the first Star Wars installment opened on May 25th in just 32 theatres. Initially marketed only to a small science fiction fanbase, momentum grew as the film received positive reviews and word of mouth spread. By August 1977, the movie was on over 1,000 screens. The film itself appealed to children and adults, and it featured ground-breaking 4 channel Dolby sound, adding to the overall cinematic impact (and audiences’ desire to repeatedly return to the theater). It dominated the box office in 1977, grossing over $461 million dollars domestically (over $300 million ahead of another sci-fi classic: Close Encounters of the Third Kind). To put this in perspective: that’s over 1.85 billion when adjusted for ticket price inflation.

 By Christmas 1977, Kenner Products, which held the original licensing rights to Star Wars action figures, was underprepared to meet the production demand the surprise sensation. What was a toy retailer to do when faced with the inability to deliver the characters every kid (and some adults) wanted? Easy: sell empty boxes. Ahead of the holiday shopping season, Kenner cleverly sold “Early Bird Certificate Packages,” including a certificate for action figures (available in February 1978), a diorama stand, and a Star Wars fan club membership card. Waiting to redeem those certificates must have been agony.

When Star Wars was first released, there was nothing else quite like it, and there was no way to anticipate the film’s success nor the audience’s desire for merchandise. With The Force Awakens, Disney knows its audience and has guaranteed there are enough items available to drive interest ahead of the film. There’s also enough stock on the shelves as families head to the theaters (in sharp contrast to Disney’s 2014 Frozen toy shortages). On top of the items available ahead of the release, there are several characters yet to be revealed, including Andy Serkais’ Supreme Leader Snoke, which means that there’s even more to come.

Have you ever waited in line for a pre or post-release movie toy? Will you be headed out to see The Force Awakens sporting any character socks?

An Associate Researcher and owner of a now vintage, non-mint condition Ewok village Julia Powell is. 

Topics: marketing strategy, digital media and entertainment research, retail research

Brands Enter the Fight Against Holiday Shopping Creep

Posted by Becky Schaefer

Mon, Nov 23, 2015

While Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday season for U.S. retailers, visions of sugar plums dance in retailers’ heads (and on their shelves) well before Halloween. The so-called “Black Friday Creep” in which sales and decorations start on or before Thanksgiving, has gotten a lot of press. Remember this Kmart ad from SEPTEMBER?!

The backlash was inevitable—too many news stories about workers forced to forgo their Thanksgiving dinners and deal-seekers trampled over new flat-screen TVs. In reaction, several high profile retailers are taking a stand against staying open on Thanksgiving. Nordstrom’s gotten great press for continuing its tradition of closing all 118 locations in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day and reopening on Black Friday. Fun fact: this is not the only “creep” that Nordstrom avoids—it also avoids the “Christmas creep,” a trend in which retailers start decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving even happens. Nordstrom believes in “celebrating one holiday at a time,” and does not decorate for Christmas until Black Friday.

Here’s my favorite example of a company combatting the creep—equipment company REI recently announced that it will not only close on Thanksgiving, but also remain closed on Black Friday. The brand has taken this unusual move and used it as a branding opportunity as part of a new campaign called “Opt Outside” (#optoutside). REI encourages both employees (who will be paid for the day) and customers to skip the mall and spend Black Friday enjoying the outdoors instead of shopping. Over 800,000 people have already committed to Opt Outside this Black Friday, and you can choose to join directly on REI’s website. It’s a brilliant idea, and it works because it’s consistent with REI’s brand promise and its customers’ values.

What are your Black Friday plans? Are you planning on spending your Black Friday racking up holiday deals? Or are you going to Opt Outside with REI? Let us know in the comments!

Rebecca is part of the field services team at CMB, and she is excited to celebrate her favorite time of year with her family and friends.  

Topics: advertising, marketing strategy, brand health and positioning, retail research