How to Prospect for New Customers Now that the Internet Disrupts Traditional Marketing

April 16th, 2014

The internet and its disruptive influence on traditional marketing means that well-researched consumer insights are no longer a luxury

Disruption – It’s a hot word in business circles. We all know the effects of market disruption brought on by marketers like Amazon. And we all know that the internet is what causes market disruption to spread. But few analysts delve more deeply into the root cause of that disruption. It isn’t caused simply by the internet’s existence, but how the internet has transferred the power of information that controls the exchange of goods and services from the marketer to the consumer.

It is this shift in control of information, not necessarily how the information is delivered or disseminated, that is key, according to a new book, The Age of the Consumer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance, by my friend and colleague Jim Blasingame.

As Jim proclaims:

The age of the customer is upon us. After centuries of markets driven in large part by those who sell, today’s competitive environment is driven by the customer. This means marketers can’t go forward with their marketing plans without deep consumer insights about motivations, not just behavior or demographics.

Jim Blasingame is an expert on small business and entrepreneurship, as well as president and founder of the Small Business Network, Inc., a media company dedicated to serving small business and host of syndicated The Small Business Advocate Show, on which I am frequently a guest. In Jim’s new book, he explains a paradigm shift going on in the commercial world from the Age of the Seller to the Age of the Customer. You can find out more at: http://ageofthecustomer.com/

Get Inspired>>

The rules of marketing have changed in the new age of the customer. It requires changes in how we market goods and services to the newly information- empowered consumer.

The basic premise of Jim’s book is that in the new age of the customer, the seller or marketer of goods and services has lost control of the information about what they are selling. Where once the seller controlled the message through carefully-crafted advertising and consistent messaging, we are now in an era in which product information is overwhelmingly created by the customer.

Today, the customer no longer needs to rely upon the marketer to tell him or her about the product, its advantages, and so on, but instead can go to a rapidly-expanding library of information about products and services on the internet, including User-Generated-Content (UGC). This has turned the tables on the marketer with a resulting loss of power in their relationship with the customer.

Essentially in the new age of the customer, the product itself has been commoditized and lost its significance, as the customer has vastly superior ways of discovering viable alternatives through the internet and the access it provides to information. Information is key and the source of power in the business relationship – which now the customers, not the sellers, control.

Jim’s solution to successful marketing in the new age of the consumer is for marketers to make their messages relevant. Relevance — communicating important, interesting information to the customer which makes him or her take notice — is the new call to action for marketers.

The moment of relevance requires marketers understand their customers’ point of view and consumer research delivers those insights

Making your marketing messages relevant requires marketers to have a deep understanding of their customer – not just the traditional who, what, where, when kinds of data collected in most customer surveys, but now the need is to deeply understand why people buy. The underlying motivations and drives that power the customer are far more powerful than just understanding behavioral and demographic customer data that is commonly found in internal CRM systems. A deep understanding of the consumers’ point of view, attitudes and motivations pays huge dividends in more effective and relevant marketing and branding in this new age of customer world.

Market research is no longer optional. Marketers can’t afford to play fast and loose anymore, throwing ideas and concepts out into the market just to see what sticks. Marketing is now a psychological game and marketers must start by understanding the customers’ deep psychological needs.

Take Action>>

Unity Marketing can be your business partner in understanding your customer and turning that understanding into successful marketing and branding strategies

Unity Marketing’s been in the business of studying the consumers for over 20 years. Our research among affluents which produces the exclusive LCI (Luxury Consumption Index) gave us – and our clients — a six months advance warning in 1997 of the brewing financial crisis that led to the recent recession. We are out in the market four times every year with in-depth surveys among 1,200+ affluents about their purchases and shopping behavior, attitudes and purchase motivations. In addition, Unity Marketing routinely conducts qualitative research studies for publication, as well as exclusively for our clients.

Unity Marketing should be your partner in understanding your best customer prospects, which are the affluent consumers who make up only 20 percent of the population, but who account for over 40 percent of all consumer spending, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We stand ready to work with you to develop targeted marketing and branding strategies that will build a loyal and lasting relationship with those customers.

  • Get started: Unity Marketing’s vast library of syndicated market research studies, like our most recent “Luxury’s Got a Brand New Style” trend report which examines attitudes and motivations of affluents toward luxury (i.e. why they buy luxury), are low-cost ways for marketers to gain reliable research-based data and customer insights about specific consumer markets, including luxury, home, fashion, jewelry, travel, art and many more. And with Unity Marketing’s focus on the affluent consumer segment, you will be assured insights that apply to the best customer prospects for your category, whether you are selling to the masses or the ‘classes.’
  • Develop a system: Consumer insights isn’t a once and done effort, but takes on-going efforts to track and monitor brand connections with the target customer as he or she changes buying behavior or brand preferences. Unfortunately, one market research report isn’t going to give you on-going feedback on the results of your marketing efforts and whether your marketing messages are breaking through. Unity Marketing can help you develop a marketing research program that can provide on-going tracking data so that you continuously monitor the shifts and changes in your target market. For example, our Affluent Consumer Tracking Study (ACTS) gives marketers at the high-end of the market data about their customers buying behavior and consumer confidence and attitudes every three months. We also offer marketers a ‘lite’ subscription if they need to track only one product segment.
  • Intensify and focus: With experience in both collecting and using market research information and insights, Unity Marketing can help you not just in gathering consumer insights, but uncovering the nuggets that will yield the best return to marketers in strategies and tactics. Call me at 717.336.1600 or email pam@unitymarketingonline.com for a confidential discussion of where the gaps are in your customer understanding and how Unity Marketing can bridge the gaps.
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Retailers & Service Businesses: In This Slow-Growth Environment, You Can’t Afford Not to Work Harder — and Smarter — for the Money

March 24th, 2014

While I have been out and about shopping, a couple of things happened that got me thinking about how often – way too often – retailers and services providers are leaving way too much money ‘on the table,’ or more accurately in the customers’ wallet, when just a little bit of effort on their part could put that money into the cash drawer. 

Since this interminable winter is finally over and spring has arrived, it is an excellent time for business owners to put into place new strategies and instituted new systems that will help grow sales and increase profitability.  Businesses today simply can’t afford to let their customers pass by their store front and not stop in, nor can they afford not to work a little harder to get the sale.

Get Inspired>>

Spring Is Here, Time to Take Your Sales Up a Notch

I don’t need to tell you that consumer sentiment remains quite fragile and retail sales and personal consumption is growing at an anemic pace.  As retail and service businesses, we need to work harder for the next sale.  All it takes is a little bit of creativity, some staff training and to use technology tools more effectively.  Here are some thoughts.

  • Forget Sales, Focus on Giving More to the Customer –Today the standard way to get customers into the store is to offer a sale, 30 percent off here, 50 percent off there.  Every day I get at least 50-100 invitations in my inbox inviting me to save money at this website or that one.  Not to mention the sales flyers I get through the mail.  Some 99 percent of which get tossed.  Rather than knee-jerking a sales event, which tend to draw only the cheapest, lowest- potential customers,  retailers and service businesses should focus on designing retailing events that get customers to spend more.  I am a huge believer in BOGO-style offers, either buy one get one half off, but not just any items.  The BOGO offer should tie together items that naturally go together.  Like a buy a pedicure and get a manicure half off; buy a shirt and get a tie half off; buy a pair of pumps and get a pair of flats half off; buy a necklace, get earrings for half;  buy a pair of jeans and get a shirt half-off; buy a hammer and get a box of nails half off. All this requires is for the retailer or service provider to think through their typical sale, their merchandise mix, and do the thinking FOR the customer, not leave it up to the customer to do the thinking and the work.  I am such a fan of BOGO offers, that I have one for you. Read on.
  • Train Staff to Add on to a Sale – This is so simple, it hurts how often sales clerks simply work the register and don’t work the customer to add onto the sale.  I am a special fan of one brand of Merle Norman mascara; it just works best for me, so every three months or so I have to go to the mall to visit the Merle Norman store to get a new tube.  Merle Norman, like so many other beauty brands, regularly offers gift packages of sample sizes with a minimum purchase, another way to add-value to increase store traffic.  Unfortunately I hadn’t gotten the memo about the new gift pack available free with a $50 purchase.  And the sales clerk didn’t bother to tell me about it either.  My mascara purchase cost about $25, so I am already half way to the $50 ticket where the goodies bag kicks in and any sales clerk with eyes can see that I am a total makeup junkie. So all she would have to do is tell me about the goodie bag and suggest a new lipstick or eye shadow color that would work for my skin tone.  Net/Net:  I walked out of the store with a $25 purchase, when with just a bit of effort the store could have doubled that sale.
  • Anticipate Routine Purchases and Send Reminders –In Pennsylvania, like in many states, we are required annually to have our cars inspected and we just got stopped by a very courteous policeman who gave us a warning because our inspection sticker was a month overdue.  Whose fault was that?  Not mine, nor my husband’s, but the dealer who we rely upon for maintenance and repair.  Why didn’t they send us a notice?  Inexcusable, likewise for routine oil changes.  They put a little sticker on the wind shield as a reminder for when the next oil change is due.  WRONG!  They should send us a note.  We don’t need a discount, we just need a reminder.  Same goes for my beauty salon.  Why don’t they send me a note six weeks out from my last appointment, reminding me that I might need a trim.   And while this tip is perfectly suited to service businesses, it also can apply to many product businesses too.  For example, my twin grandson, who are 18 months old now, are outgrowing their shoes almost as fast as they get new ones.  We have been buying shoes for them at Clarks where we also are part of their loyalty program.  Clark’s records should clue them into the fact that we should return to the store every six months or so to check sizes.  Almost any business, service or product retail, has some kind of routine or predictable reasons people come to shop, so forward-thinking business should send a note and remind the customer they are there to supply those needs.
  • Create Meaningful Reasons to Visit the Store – The secret to successful retailing is to give people a reason to come into the store, and then they will shop, but shopping can’t be the reason to come.  This means creating events, activities, special reasons to invite the customer in.  For beauty stores like Merle Norman, it might be a custom seasonal makeover; for a fashion boutique, a fashion show, trunk show, meet-the-designer event; for a garden center, it’s a Saturday morning workshop on creating the ultimate shade garden or planting for all-season color; for a furniture store, it’s a workshop on creating the ultimate photo wall display by the store’s resident designer; and for the framing shop, it’s a workshop on picking the right frame and mat to properly accent the picture.  Today’s customers want to be educated and your store can be – should be – a source for that education.  My friend Barb Emmett who owns a specialty pet boutique called Godfrey’s Welcome to Dogdom has made being the local source for all things pets her hallmark.  So she sponsors special pet events, like on-going series of pet photoshoots, holiday parties, and such.   She uses Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to the max including regularly updating her followers about pet food recalls for brands that she doesn’t even carry in her store.  Check out Barb’s Facebook page to see how to do it right.

Take Action>>

Think How New Insights and New Ideas about Your Customers and Target Customers Could Help You Build a Stronger, More Profitable Business

I got a call last week from the senior VP of marketing for a major national retailing chain that everyone knows and recognizes.   He raved about a report that he just received from us and about how helpful it is to him in developing a new business strategy focused on building greater customer involvement and loyalty.  The insights in the report and the factual data contained therein gives him the tools he needs to push his program through to increase sales in the company’s stores and raise his profile as a forward-looking, big-thinking retailing executive.

We hear quite often  how good our research is and how useful it proves to be in helping our clients gain new perspectives on their customers and target customers to understand them better so that they can ultimately sell more.  But all too often, people have had bad experiences with other company’s research reports in the past.  Too many research reports simply present survey results without any explanation about what to do with that information.  Too often research reports are written only for people who have MBAs and are quite conversant with reading surveys.   Unity Marketing’s reports are different; we make a great effort to translate research findings into actionable marketing and sales strategies.

I want to encourage you to try our reports and see the real difference market research can make as a platform for building your strategic marketing programs.  So I am offering a chance for you to Buy One Luxury Trend or Snapshot Report and Get Another Luxury Trend or Snapshot report at half-price.  See a list of Trend Reports here http://unitymarketingonline.com/catalog/product_cat.php/subid=204/index.html  and Snapshot reports are listed here http://www.unitymarketingonline.com/catalog/product_cat.php/subid=163/index.html

What’s the difference between a Trend Report and a Snapshot Report?  Simple, Trend Reports focus on one trend of the luxury market.  For example, two new Trend Reports that are getting a lot of action are:

As a package they would be $750.

Luxury Snapshot Reports are specific sections cut out of the Luxury Report on particular product or service segments.  These are most appropriate for people who just want the five-year history of types of purchase and places of purchases, plus spending and brand tracking in one of the 21 different product or service sectors included in Unity Marketing’s Affluent Consumer Tracking Study.

So perhaps as a furniture marketer you want to combine a Trend Report, like Home Is Where the Luxury Is, with a Snapshot report on furniture for the detailed purchase history.  That would be $750 too, as a package.  Or if you are in the fashion business, you want a Trend Report, like Fashionable Affluent with the Luxury Snapshot Report on retail brands, for $750 too.

This BOGO offer is available through April 30, 2014.  You can order your two reports online with your credit card and we will apply the discount at our end.  Or your can call us to place the order by phone.  And I am always available by phone 717.336.1600 or email pam@unitymarketingonline.com to discuss your specific needs and interests.

Order your reports today and get your business growing!

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Home Marketers: How to Use Consumer Insights about the Best Customer Segment – the Affluent – to Build a New Brand and Gain the Competitive Edge

February 5th, 2014

Unity Marketing’s Home Is Where the Luxury Is trend report served as a research-based platform to develop a company’s strategic marketing plan

As Unity Marketing’s chief cook and bottle washer, I wear a lot of hats – market researcher, focus group moderator, statistical analyst, marketing consultant and brand strategist, as well as speaker, writer, blogger, and media talking head.  Recently, I’ve been wearing my “marketing consultant hat,” focused on marketing and branding strategies for a home furnishings company looking to expand in the U.S. luxury market.    For this project, we completed primary research by interviewing industry influentials and prepared a detailed strategic marketing plan for the client, combining findings from the expert interviews, and analysis based on my experience in the affluent home furnishings market.

As I worked through the brand positioning and recommendations for the product range, pricing, distribution channels, and promotional strategies, I also turned to Unity Marketing consumer research library for consumer insights into the affluent home furnishings market in a trend report entitled Home Is Where the Luxury Is.  This report gives direct access to data about the target consumer, their needs, and desires, and it broadened the research perspective beyond industry influentials to consumers.

It has been a while since I wrote that home trend report and quite a few other reports have come down the pike since then, so I really didn’t remember many of the details from that study.  But I do know our research approach, so I knew I could find data about affluent purchasers and purchases of home furnishings, including consumer demographics, spending on home furnishings, places of purchase, key motivators/influencers of purchase, types of items bought, styles, and the like.

This was a unique chance for me to read my own report as one of our clients might.  I came at it fresh and with a totally different perspective, that of an information user, rather than as an author and analyst trying to interpret the data.  What I found was a truly useful, valuable and insightful report that gave me added authority in positioning this client’s brand for the U.S. market.

The report’s statistically-valid survey findings served as a reliable platform on which to base recommendations, rather than relying solely on intuition, past experience, or the limited sample of 12 interviews among industry influentials.  As a result, this client’s strategic marketing plan and its recommendations are made with authority that the client can invest in and implement with a solid research foundation.

For example, in my client’s home furnishings project, pricing is a key factor in the overall market success but based upon the influentials’ interviews, pricing recommendations were all over the board, from extremely low to extraordinarily high, mainly because the product line is totally new and with few competitive reference points on which to make a pricing judgment.  However, the Home Is Where the Luxury Is report contained several key questions about affluent customer’s spending and attitudes about purchasing that gave me the ammunition to make a solid pricing recommendation that the client can feel confident will maximize their sales potential in the U.S. market.

Get Inspired>>

Home is predicted to be hot, but you need to focus on the best prospects for your home brands and that is the affluent

Across the retail landscape home-furnishings stores, as well as the building materials and garden segment – Big Box hardware stores – have been the bright spot during 2013 in an otherwise tepid retail market.  The latest estimate from the Census Department’s Monthly Retail Trade Survey puts sales at furniture and home furnishings stores up 4.6 percent year-over-year, and building materials up even more, 5.9 percent.  By comparison general merchandise stores, including department stores and mass market discounters, were up only .5 percent.

In another sign of industry health, trade publisher Home Furnishings Business reports that furniture and bedding industry sales reached its highest quarterly level since 2007 in 4Q2013.  Overall combined Furniture and Bedding jumped 8.3 percent over the same 4th quarter of last year.

But this uptick in home goods sales is not across the board, since not all shoppers are buying home goods at the same rate.  For example, the nation’s affluent households (those at the top 20 percent of income, which starts at just around $100,000 and goes up) account for 42 percent of total consumer spending on home furnishings and equipment in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey.   This compares to only 22 percent of total home furnishings consumer spending by the upper-middle income segment, with incomes ranging from about $60,000 to just about $100,000.

That means for any home furnishings marketer, brand or retailer, the best customer prospects – those who will contribute most to your company’s bottom line – are the affluent top 20 percent.  So whether you are selling at the high-end, think Horchow or increasingly Restoration Hardware; in the mass middle market, like La-Z-Boy or Bed Bath & Beyond; or targeting the moneyed, but discount-oriented shopper, like Joss & Main, One Kings Lane or WayFair, attracting these high-potential customers to your brand, store or website is key.  To do that you really need to understand them, what they buy, how they shop, their attitudes and motivations directed to their homes and their lifestyles. 

Take Action>>

Unity Marketing can be your business partner in understanding your customer and turning that understanding into successful marketing and branding strategies

Unity Marketing’s been in the business of studying the consumers for over 20 years.  Our surveys among affluents gave us – and our clients — a six months advance warning in 1997 of the brewing financial crisis that led to the recent recession.  We are out in the market four times every year with in-depth surveys among affluents about their shopping behavior, attitudes and purchase motivations.  Unity Marketing should be your partner in understanding your best customer prospects, which are the affluent consumers who make up only 20 percent of the population, but who account for over 40 percent of all consumer spending.  We stand ready to work with you to develop targeted marketing and branding strategies that will build a loyal and lasting relationship with those customers.

  • Get in on the ground floor: Unity Marketing plans to conduct a new study of the home furnishings and furniture market.  You can get in on the ground floor to direct the focus and objectives of that study by participating in a brief Information Needs Analysis survey. Click this link if you’d like to weigh in the kind of information you need about the home furnishings consumer market.
  • Get started today: Unity Marketing’s vast library of syndicated market research studies, like the Home Is Where the Luxury Is trend report, are low-cost ways for marketers to gain reliable data and customer insights about specific consumer markets, including home, fashion, jewelry, travel, art and many more.  And with Unity Marketing’s focus on the affluent consumer segment, you will be assured insights that apply to the best customer prospects for your category whether you are selling to the masses or the ‘classes.’
  • Develop a system: Consumer insights aren’t a “once and done” effort; it takes on-going efforts to track and monitor brand connections with the target customer as he or she changes buying behavior or brand preferences.  Unfortunately, one market research report isn’t going to give you ongoing feedback on the results of your marketing efforts and whether your marketing messages are breaking through.   Unity Marketing can help you develop a marketing research program that can provide on-going tracking data so that you continuously monitor the shifts and changes in your target market.   For example, our Affluent Consumer Tracking study gives marketers at the high-end of the market data about their customers buying behavior and consumer confidence and attitudes every three months.  We also offer marketers a ‘lite’ subscription if they need to track only one product segment.
  • Intensify and focus: With experience in both collecting and using market research information and insights, Unity Marketing can help you not just in gathering consumer insights, but uncovering the nuggets that will yield the best return to marketers in strategies and tactics.  Call me at 717.336.1600 or email pam@unitymarketingonline.com for a confidential discussion of where the gaps are in your customer understanding and how Unity Marketing can bridge the gaps.
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Suitsupply Has Its Customers’ Needs Covered, Today and Tomorrow

January 27th, 2014
Brand-loyalty bonds made today among young HENRYs will keep the male fashion customer coming back as their careers take them into ultra-affluence
Sometimes, but all too rarely, you happen upon a new retailing concept that grabs you.  It is the perfect combination of the right product at the right price for the right customer — delivered with the right shopping experience.  That is how international men’s retailer Suitsupply got my attention. With six US stores and seven more slated to open soon to make 46 stores worldwide, Suitsupply sells high-quality, well-designed men’s suits at affordable, even reasonable prices, with off-the-rack suits starting under $500 and made-to-measure up to $2,000.
Besides the great clothes, Suitsupply provides exceptional service, which includes highly-trained sales associates that take the guesswork out of the equation by fitting a customer into the suit  that works best for him; and on-site tailors who do basic alterations while you wait — all for the thrill of immediate gratification.
But it’s not just the clothes and shopping experience that sets Suitsupply apart.  Suitsupply’s marketing strategy makes it an important retailer; everyone needs to take notice, and not just those in the fashion business.  Suitsupply is a retailing concept that is designed to grow and evolve with its core customer base.   Suitsupply knows its customer – young, ambitious professional men – and his needs today, but is positioned to meet those needs in the future, as he advances in his profession and his ability to trade up. It’s the affordable front door to a bespoke haberdashery experience that today’s young and less affluent HENRY (high-earners-not-rich-yet) customers will ultimately grow into.
Get Inspired>>
Meet the young HENRYs who will grow into ultra-affluence
In today’s  affluent market, defined as the top 20 percent of US households based on income that starts at about $100,000, there are only two income segments that really matter.  The HENRYs with incomes between $100,000 and $249,999 (which comprise about 22 million US households); and the ultra-affluents, roughly the top 2 percent, or slightly fewer than three million households with incomes of $250,000+.  HENRYs are the mass affluent who are a critically important shopping segment across all retail; and the ultra 2 percent is the luxury-market target, although far fewer in number, has two-to-three times the spending power as HENRYs
The upwardly mobile HENRYs are just the kind of customers that Suitsupply cultivates:  highly-educated, young professional men who need to dress for success in their management, law, finance, consulting, and other careers and occasions when a suit is appropriate, but who don’t want – or have – a lot of cash to spend.  It is these young men with advanced degrees and ambitious career goals who are most likely to advance into income levels over $250,000 and thus become the prime target customer for true luxury brands.
So why wouldn’t they want to upgrade their dress-for-success wardrobes to more exclusive brands, like Ermenegildo Zegna or Kiton, when they have the incomes?  Very simply, shoppers are creatures of habit, and unless they are given a compelling reason to change their shopping habits, they are highly likely to continue going back year after year to the brands that have served them well in the past.
Unless Suitsupply really screws up, which given their laser focus on their customers and satisfying their fashion needs, their young HENRY customers are bound to stay in for the long haul as their incomes rise and ability to spend increases.
Take Action >>
Develop a strategy for future retail success by understanding your best customers today and tomorrow
No matter what your retail brand or your position in the market, high-end, low-end or in the middle, the best prospects for growth can be found among the affluent, those at the top 20 percent. Post-recession, with so much spending power drained out of the middle-class market, the affluents are about the only ones with any significant discretionary income left.
Unfortunately, too many marketers misunderstand the affluent and think of them as people looking to spend their money just as quickly as they can make it, splurging on high-ticket luxury brands and other indulgences.  But people don’t get rich by spending all their money, nor do they reach affluent income levels by accident.  ”They work hard for the money,” paraphrasing what Donna Summer sang back in the 80s.
Affluents know the value of a dollar and they tend not to spend it carelessly or unwisely.  They also have stable lifestyles and personal responsibilities that they take seriously.  They typically aren’t spendthrifts and usually don’t live beyond their means.  All the same, their higher levels of income make them the ‘heavy-lifting’ shopper who can boost the average ticket in any retail store simply by their greater ability to spend.
That is why I see Suitsupply as a sustainable brand with this powerful target market – young men with ambition and incomes destined to rise year-over-year with a need for professional suiting and appreciation for high levels of service.  The brand’s future is virtually guaranteed because Suitsupply has ticked off all the most important boxes to succeed.
Identifying the customer:  Young men on the road to affluence who need professional suiting
Defining what he needs:  Fine quality suiting at reasonable price today with offerings that can grow with his ability to pay in the future
Delivering a WOW factor that will hook him and keep him coming back:  Service levels that exceed what he would expect and probably has ever experienced. By providing instant alterations, Suitsupply builds a level of trust and loyalty that will bring him back again and again.
Let Unity Marketing be your business partner in understanding your best prospective customer for the future and turning that understanding into successful marketing and branding strategies
Unity Marketing offers a variety of market research and consulting services that will help marketers develop luxury-targeted strategies that will build a loyal and lasting relationship with the affluent customers.  Let’s work together to:
Get Started:  Unity Marketing’s vast library of syndicated market research studies provide a low-cost way for marketers to gain reliable data and customer insights about specific consumer markets.  For example, the luxury trend report entitled, Meet the HENRYs: Positioning for the Mindset of the High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet Mass Affluent Customers, gives a concise understanding of how to reach this valuable customer for the future growth of your brand.
Develop a system: Consumer insights aren’t a “once and done” project; it takes on-going efforts to track and monitor brand connections with the target customer as he or she changes buying behavior or brand preferences.  Unity Marketing offers the  Affluent Consumer Tracking study which gives marketers at the high-end of the market data about their customers buying behavior and consumer confidence and attitudes every three months.  We also offer marketers a ‘lite’ subscription to the mattress category if they need to track only this one product segment.
Delve Deeply into the Future Generation of High-Potential Customers:   Beginning in 2018-2020 a wave of new young affluent consumers will become the dominant consumers in the marketplace.  Thanks to our understanding of the demographics of affluence, we can reliably predict who among this generation 71 million people strong are on the road to an affluent lifestyle.  You can become part of a new multi-client study, entitled Millennials on the Road to Affluence, that will investigate the mindset, purchasing habits and lifestyle values of ambitious, highly-educated young people who will take the lead as luxury customers in the future.  Click this link to learn more about sponsorship opportunities or email pam@unitymarketingonline.com

Brand-loyalty bonds made today among young HENRYs will keep the male fashion customer coming back as their careers take them into ultra-affluence

Sometimes, but all too rarely, you happen upon a new retailing concept that grabs you. It is the perfect combination of the right product at the right price for the right customer — delivered with the right shopping experience. That is how international men’s retailer Suitsupply got my attention. With six US stores and seven more slated to open soon to make 46 stores worldwide, Suitsupply sells high-quality, well-designed men’s suits at affordable, even reasonable prices, with off-the-rack suits starting under $500 and made-to-measure up to $2,000.

Besides the great clothes, Suitsupply provides exceptional service, which includes highly-trained sales associates that take the guesswork out of the equation by fitting a customer into the suit that works best for him; and on-site tailors who do basic alterations while you wait — all for the thrill of immediate gratification.

But it’s not just the clothes and shopping experience that sets Suitsupply apart. Suitsupply’s marketing strategy makes it an important retailer; everyone needs to take notice, and not just those in the fashion business. Suitsupply is a retailing concept that is designed to grow and evolve with its core customer base. Suitsupply knows its customer – young, ambitious professional men – and his needs today, but is positioned to meet those needs in the future, as he advances in his profession and his ability to trade up. It’s the affordable front door to a bespoke haberdashery experience that today’s young and less affluent HENRY (high-earners-not-rich-yet) customers will ultimately grow into.

Get Inspired>>

Meet the young HENRYs who will grow into ultra-affluence

In today’s affluent market, defined as the top 20 percent of US households based on income that starts at about $100,000, there are only two income segments that really matter. The HENRYs with incomes between $100,000 and $249,999 (which comprise about 22 million US households); and the ultra-affluents, roughly the top 2 percent, or slightly fewer than three million households with incomes of $250,000+. HENRYs are the mass affluent who are a critically important shopping segment across all retail; and the ultra 2 percent is the luxury-market target, although far fewer in number, has two-to-three times the spending power as HENRYs

The upwardly mobile HENRYs are just the kind of customers that Suitsupply cultivates: highly-educated, young professional men who need to dress for success in their management, law, finance, consulting, and other careers and occasions when a suit is appropriate, but who don’t want – or have – a lot of cash to spend. It is these young men with advanced degrees and ambitious career goals who are most likely to advance into income levels over $250,000 and thus become the prime target customer for true luxury brands.

So why wouldn’t they want to upgrade their dress-for-success wardrobes to more exclusive brands, like Ermenegildo Zegna or Kiton, when they have the incomes? Very simply, shoppers are creatures of habit, and unless they are given a compelling reason to change their shopping habits, they are highly likely to continue going back year after year to the brands that have served them well in the past.

Unless Suitsupply really screws up, which given their laser focus on their customers and satisfying their fashion needs, their young HENRY customers are bound to stay in for the long haul as their incomes rise and ability to spend increases.

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Develop a strategy for future retail success by understanding your best customers today and tomorrow

No matter what your retail brand or your position in the market, high-end, low-end or in the middle, the best prospects for growth can be found among the affluent, those at the top 20 percent. Post-recession, with so much spending power drained out of the middle-class market, the affluents are about the only ones with any significant discretionary income left.

Unfortunately, too many marketers misunderstand the affluent and think of them as people looking to spend their money just as quickly as they can make it, splurging on high-ticket luxury brands and other indulgences. But people don’t get rich by spending all their money, nor do they reach affluent income levels by accident. “They work hard for the money,” paraphrasing what Donna Summer sang back in the 80s.

Affluents know the value of a dollar and they tend not to spend it carelessly or unwisely. They also have stable lifestyles and personal responsibilities that they take seriously. They typically aren’t spendthrifts and usually don’t live beyond their means. All the same, their higher levels of income make them the ‘heavy-lifting’ shopper who can boost the average ticket in any retail store simply by their greater ability to spend.

That is why I see Suitsupply as a sustainable brand with this powerful target market – young men with ambition and incomes destined to rise year-over-year with a need for professional suiting and appreciation for high levels of service. The brand’s future is virtually guaranteed because Suitsupply has ticked off all the most important boxes to succeed.

  • Identifying the customer: Young men on the road to affluence who need professional suiting
  • Defining what he needs: Fine quality suiting at reasonable price today with offerings that can grow with his ability to pay in the future
  • Delivering a WOW factor that will hook him and keep him coming back: Service levels that exceed what he would expect and probably has ever experienced. By providing instant alterations, Suitsupply builds a level of trust and loyalty that will bring him back again and again.

Let Unity Marketing be your business partner in understanding your best prospective customer for the future and turning that understanding into successful marketing and branding strategies

Unity Marketing offers a variety of market research and consulting services that will help marketers develop luxury-targeted strategies that will build a loyal and lasting relationship with the affluent customers. Let’s work together to:

  • Get Started: Unity Marketing’s vast library of syndicated market research studies provide a low-cost way for marketers to gain reliable data and customer insights about specific consumer markets. For example, the luxury trend report entitled, Meet the HENRYs: Positioning for the Mindset of the High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet Mass Affluent Customers, gives a concise understanding of how to reach this valuable customer for the future growth of your brand.
  • Develop a system: Consumer insights aren’t a “once and done” project; it takes on-going efforts to track and monitor brand connections with the target customer as he or she changes buying behavior or brand preferences. Unity Marketing offers the Affluent Consumer Tracking study which gives marketers at the high-end of the market data about their customers buying behavior and consumer confidence and attitudes every three months. We also offer marketers a ‘lite’ subscription to the mattress category if they need to track only this one product segment.
  • Delve Deeply into the Future Generation of High-Potential Customers: Beginning in 2018-2020 a wave of new young affluent consumers will become the dominant consumers in the marketplace. Thanks to our understanding of the demographics of affluence, we can reliably predict who among this generation 71 million people strong are on the road to an affluent lifestyle. You can become part of a new multi-client study, entitled Millennials on the Road to Affluence, that will investigate the mindset, purchasing habits and lifestyle values of ambitious, highly-educated young people who will take the lead as luxury customers in the future. Click this link to learn more about sponsorship opportunities or email pam@unitymarketingonline.com
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Select Comfort & Tempur Sealy Are Having Nightmares in the High-End Mattress Market; Saatva Is Poised to Take Advantage

January 14th, 2014

Rapidly growing demand for mattresses, along with intense competition at retail, turns luxury mattress brands into commodities. Saatva takes advantage of the confusion to disrupt the high-end market with streamlined shopping experiences

Consumer demand for luxury sleeping comfort has led to a rapidly expanding market for mattresses and sleep systems. In the most recent State of the Industry Report from trade magazine HFN, mattresses were the fastest growing category tracked across the $163.4 billion home furnishings market, posting a staggering 13.5 percent increase, as compared to the 4 percent overall market increase year-over-year.  Unity Marketing’s research into the high-end and luxury mattress market indicates that the affluent consumer segment (top 20% of households with incomes $100k and above) accounts for $4.3 billion of the total $9.2 billion mattress market, or some 46 percent S.O.M.

Sales of luxury and high-end mattresses have contributed greatly to the overall 13.5 percent growth in the mattress market, but recent indicators signal challenges ahead for premium brands, like Select Comfort, Tempur-Pedic, Stearns and Foster and others. Consumers are demanding all the comfort from a premium brand, but at steeply discounted prices.

Further retail competition is catching fire, with the result that premium brands can’t hold the line on prices. For example, Mattress Firm with 1,100 outlets is on a tear, opening 98 new stores in 2013 and acquiring two regional chains. Sleepy’s tops out at over 900 stores and online retailer 1800Mattress.com gives ‘showrooming’ mattress shoppers access to deep discounts for most of the leading brands. There are too many comparable brands, too many styles, too many stores and few clear differences on which a shopper can make a choice. The shopping decision then rests solely on discount price and high-end brands become mere commodities.

While the premium and luxury brands fight amongst themselves to grab market share, there is a new company Saatva poised to capture business from both the high-end and middle-market mattress brands. Saatva is following an aggressive strategy to disrupt the traditional mattress market by offering a single ‘ultra-premium luxury’ mattress available in three flavors (soft, medium, firm) and sold direct-to-consumer online. This simplified shopping experience and by not having the added cost of a retail middleman offers buyers all the quality features of the luxury name-brand mattresses for 70 percent less, so prices for a king sized is a flat $1,599 and a queen is $1,149.  Saatva takes much of  the pain out of shopping for a new mattress.

Get Inspired>>

While shopping for a luxury mattress at retail has become a nightmare, Saatva simplifies access to ultra-premium luxury mattress comfort at a great price

Saatva is taking advantage of the fact that premium and luxury mattress brands are losing their ‘luxe.’ Select Comfort just advised investors that fourth quarter sales were weak and that these trends are expected to continue into 2014. And in its most recent announcement, Tempur Sealy International reported tepid sales of its organic Tempurpedic segment, along with a decline in international sales. In response to weak performance, the company just announced six new TEMPUR-Cloud mattresses coming in 2014 to an already confusing array of TEMPUR-branded mattresses, styles, and designs. Rather than boost sales, this strategy is more likely to add complexity to an already complex buying decision and cause shoppers to back off the brand through indecision, not step up to the counter to buy.

Marketers must move aggressively to put the ‘luxe’ back into their brands, but bringing out more models like Tempur Sealy is doing isn’t the answer. Affluent consumers resent the whole mattress shopping experience. It is just too painful. Plus, they aren’t about to pay full list price for a Select Comfort, Tempur-pedic, Stearns & Foster or other premium mattress, when they can find the same brands or perfectly acceptable substitute at discounted prices.

What I most admire about Saatva, and what the established brands can learn from their example, is how Saatva has taken out all the confusion from shopping for a bed. For customers the time savings and convenience of buying from Saatva, as compared to trying to figure out what mattress you want in a crowded retail store, is the ultimate luxury.

Take Action>>

Unity Marketing can be your business partner in understanding your best prospective customer and turning that understanding into successful marketing and branding strategies

High-end mattress brands need to wake up to the problems customers face when buying a mattress and learn from the winning strategies that Saatva is using before it is too late. The traditional business model for mattresses is broken and high-end brands have lost their edge. Rather than keep doing the same thing that has always been done, the premium brands need to focus on the needs of the best customer prospects (i.e. the affluent luxury buyers) and build relevance for the brand around those needs. The challenge is:

  • First, recognize that the luxury mattress brand doesn’t mean to the customer what marketers think it means; it has become commoditized and lost its ‘luxe’ edge.
  • Second, uncover through consumer insights what the best target customer (i.e. the affluent) really wants in a sleep experience and what mattress features and values communicate those experiences to the customer.
  • Then, implement changes to brand positioning, marketing and distribution strategies and pricing around those wants and needs.

Mattress brands can’t keep doing the same things they always have done and expect things to change. More models, more brands, new pricing schemes aren’t going to make the difference. Brands need to start by understanding the customer and work from there to create a luxury brand that is relevant and fills a gap in the marketplace, like Saatva has done. But with a market size nearing $5 billion, there still are a lot of sleep-deprived affluents out there looking for a sleep solution.
Unity Marketing offers a variety of market research and consulting services that will help marketing brands develop luxury-targeted strategies that will build a loyal and lasting relationship with the affluent customers.

  • Get started: Unity Marketing’s vast library of syndicated market research studies provide a low-cost ways for marketers to gain reliable data and customer insights about specific consumer markets, such as the Luxury Mattresses & Sleep Systems Snapshot Report which reports consumer purchase behavior, spending and brand preferences And with Unity Marketing’s focus on the affluent consumer segment, you will be assured insights that apply to the best customer prospects for your category whether you are selling to the masses or the ‘classes.’
  • Develop a system: Consumer insights aren’t a “once and done” effort; it takes on-going efforts to track and monitor brand connections with the target customer as he or she changes buying behavior or brand preferences. Unity Marketing offers the Affluent Consumer Tracking study which gives marketers at the high-end of the market data about their customers buying behavior and consumer confidence and attitudes every three months. We also offer marketers a ‘lite’ subscription to the mattress category if they need to track only this one product segment.
  • Intensify and focus: With experience in both collecting and using market research information and insights, Unity Marketing can help you not just in gathering consumer insights, but uncovering the nuggets that will yield the best return to marketers in strategies and tactics. Call me at 717.336.1600 or email pam@unitymarketingonline.com for a confidential discussion of where the gaps are in your customer understanding and how Unity Marketing can bridge the gaps.
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Hallmark Cards Plans a Retail Makeover, but Does It Hold the Most Promise for for the Company?

January 7th, 2014

Apparently the folks at Hallmark believe their stores are in need of a reset, and I have to agree.   When I visit my local Hallmark store – which is one of the chain’s storied Gold Crown stores located in a local strip center – I find a store trapped in a time warp with old-fashioned merchandise, fixtures and displays.  In other words, I find little to inspire me as a shopper to spend money.   The numbers speak for themselves:  Ten years ago Hallmark boasted more than 4,000 Gold Crown stores. Today the number stands at about 2,600 stores nationwide.

But Hallmark didn’t get to be Hallmark with dummies at the helm, so it was no surprise to find out that the company is trying a new direction in specialty retail with a concept store called HMK. Currently in test mode, HMK is a model store in Kansas City, but the concept is poised to help change the way Hallmark does business.  As planned the HMK store will have more of a boutique atmosphere than the company’s Gold Crown stores and is designed to fit into higher-end shopping centers attracting more affluent shoppers.

For HMK, the mission is to make the shopping experience more personal and the key to that is seen as customizing products.  Craftspeople are stationed downstairs off the sales floor to customize gift items, whether that is burning a favorite saying into a wooden cutting board or printing a child’s name in a story book.  Hallmark Gold Crown president Jack Moore has said that he wants customers to think, “this store will help me create the perfect, personalized gift that is not available anywhere else.”  Moore also noted that it sees itself now as a “gifts plus cards” store rather than the opposite.

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Retail opportunities are to be found in smaller niche market segments with specialized needs

My hat is off to Hallmark for recognizing and taking action on revitalizing the shopping experience at its stores.  But ultimately I don’t think that losing the Hallmark brand name, in favor of HMK, is such a good idea.  Nor do I think product customization is the most important key to attracting new customers.  Competitor Things Remembered with over 600 stores has been doing that for years and has about maxed out that concept.

Let’s face it, the traditional Hallmark store still has a place in the retail landscape, as there are an awful lot of shoppers who continue to value the reliable, expected products and shopping experiences they find at the old-fashioned Hallmark store.

Looking to the retail future for Hallmark, I think the biggest opportunity can be found exploring the unique and special shopping experiences that lie untapped in the company’s smaller brands, like Crayola.  Today’s massive Millennial generation, the babies of the Baby Boomers born from 1980-2000, are starting to reach their childbearing years, opening up huge potential for marketers targeting the kid’s market.   I could see Hallmark launching a back-to-basics children’s play brand on the Crayola platform offering families meaningful play experiences in-store.  The Crayola-play possibilities go far beyond those that the Build-a-Bear Workshop chain of over 400 stores have prospered on for nearly 20 years.

Other smaller Hallmark brands with retail potential are its Christian-messaged Dayspring and Blessing Unlimited home-party business for inspirational products.   The recent Duck-Dynasty flap should clue everyone in on the huge potential for marketers to target traditional-values consumers with goods that allow them to express their point of view.

Future of retailing is not the mass market, but narrow, specialty niche markets

For Hallmark when it comes to retailing, I think they would be better served to think small and focus more narrowly on defined market segments, like families with children or the traditional-values market, rather than try to create another mass-market retailing experience to be rolled out to the hundreds of lifestyle shopping centers that have sprung up over the last decade.

In this past anemic holiday shopping season, the signs of retail fatigue are everywhere, with too many of the same stores selling the same stuff in the same way, all at the same deeply-discounted price.  Shoppers get excited by new, different, unique shopping experiences that are becoming increasingly hard to find in big malls and shopping centers.  Affluent shoppers, in particular, who are about the only ones left with any discretionary income in today’s market, are eager to have new, more specialized experiences that today can mostly be found in small, independently-owned specialty retail stores on Main Street, not in the big shopping malls filled with mass-market retailers.

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Small specialty retailing is where shopping innovation starts

Small, independent retailers are in the vanguard of finding new opportunities in retailing.  Take the example of Hello Bluebird in West Reading, PA.  Although the store offers primarily gifts and stationery goods, like Hallmark, they also host wine walks to local restaurants to engage with the community.  It’s part of Hello Bluebird’s strategy to make the store unique and relevant to the consumer, not to be just a place to buy more stuff, but to be a true customer destination.

Retail success lies in discovering innovative approaches that reflect the specific needs of a narrow band of shoppers looking for something different, as we found in new research among specialty retailers, entitled Declaration of Independents. Hello Bluebird has an advantage because they serve a defined local community of shoppers.  Hallmark could copy that model as well, thinking about selling to a small community of shoppers not defined by geography but by shared values and needs with brands like Crayola, DaySpring and Blessings Unlimited.  While Hallmark may be working to create a new mass-market concept for their stores through HMK, the hidden opportunity for Hallmark is to think about ways to more narrowly define customer niches where they can be relevant and accessible.

For retailers looking for new ideas and innovative concepts, Unity Marketing’s research can help to reveal new understanding about the target customer and his or her needs and desires.  As I analyze Unity’s latest research on shopper behavior and the retail environment, the secret of retail success is to focus on merchandising, rather than on the merchandise.  In other words, retailers need to think more about how they sell, rather than what they sell.   It is about creating that customer-centric environment that gives visitors to your store or brand a positive experience every time.  Our research tells who the target customers are, how they behave, and how to reach them with actionable strategies buttressed by hard data.


How can Unity Marketing help you succeed?

  • Get an Overview: Specialty retailers need to understand the state of their business and how their operation compares to other similar types of stores.  New retailing strategies and tactics can come from careful study of successful specialty retailers.  For those retailers eager to discover new business ideas, Unity Marketing offers a special Retailers Edition State of the Specialty Independent Retailer Business written for, and priced right, for retailers.
  • Understand More: And for marketers, like Hallmark or others whose success depends upon specialty retailers, Unity offers a new report, Declaration of Independents: A State of the Specialty Independent Retailers Market Report. This 75-page study gives up-to-the-minute data on independent retailers, the challenges they face, and actionable solutions to some of these problems.  This report is written for product manufacturers, sales reps and distributors, and market centers that depend upon the support of specialty retailers.
  • Let Me Help: I love working with independent retailers to make their businesses more successful.  If you are ready to take the next step, email me atpam@unitymarketingonline.com or call (717) 336-1600.
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Data, Data Everywhere, But What Do All Those Numbers Mean?

November 11th, 2013

I recently received a white paper from a well-respected research firm where I was quoted along with a lot of the other heavy-gun researchers in the luxury market space.  The paper had an impressive title and promised to reveal affluent U.S. consumers and how they behave, all in 15 pages of content.  So I eagerly opened it up and found the bulk of each page was a chart, table or graph. Many of the charts had the same overall format and similar labels, but with different data points plugged in.  Frankly, my eyes glazed over.  There were 24 charts, nearly two per page and most of the space on each page was devoted to data.  I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. What did all those numbers really tell me?  Not much.

So I did a little analysis of my own.  In total there were 6,873 words including data.  The exact break down was 4,883 words and 1,990 numbers and data points.  The breakdown was 71.1% words to 28.9% data, which didn’t seem out of line.  But then I dug a little deeper and discovered that there was on average 203 words devoted to explaining each of the 24 charts (i.e.  203 words *24 charts = 4,883 words.)   I don’t know about you, but it is hard to explain a complex subject like affluent consumer behavior in the U.S. in 24 chunks of 203 words each.  My consolation in this white paper was that I only contributed commentary, not data.

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Data gives people a sense of security that they know the score — But understanding the customer takes more than a lot of charts, tables and graphs

It seems to me that all this data is designed simply to give people a sense of security.  In effect, one says, “I got the data, so I must have the answer.”  The fact is you may have all the numbers in the world displayed in neat charts, tables and graphs which slice and dice the data every which way,  but ultimately what do all those numbers add up to?  Those numbers don’t really tell marketers what they need to know, and that is what is really going on in the mindset of the affluent consumer, how they feel, what their problems are, what they worry about at night and how that ultimately translates into their lives as consumers of goods and services.   People get a lot of confidence (false confidence, I should add) out of having every data point at their fingertips.  But all those numbers don’t tell you what you as a marketer must do to reach the customer.

For example, that 64% of high-income internet users learn about new brands and products from their friends and family is interesting, but how do you translate that into specific marketing strategies and tactics.  I know, the simple answer is “social media,” but which ones, how much should a company invest, what messages should be conveyed via social media, and where does one begin?   And how to get heard above the noise on social media, since every other brand is after the attention of the high-income targets’ friends and family.

Take Action>>

What you really need to know about the affluent consumer in the U.S. today

True consumer insights come through the understanding of three different perspectives:

  • Demographics – The facts and figures that define the size and objective facts about the target market.
  • Psychographics – The attitudes and motivations that are found within the target market.
  • Purchase Behavior – As past behavior is a key predictor of future behavior, how consumers buy and shop; how much they spend; and what influences their purchase decision are important.

Unity Marketing offers a variety of solutions suitable to the individual marketers’ needs and budget to gain actionable insights into the U.S. affluent consumer and how they behave.

  • Dig Deep: A deep and detailed analysis of these three perspectives can be found in Unity Marketing’s annual Luxury Report:  The Ultimate Guide to the Luxury Consumer Market. At 266 pages, it is a weighty tome worthy of the scope of the subject.
  • Get an Overview: But for those who want a distilled-down version, Unity Marketing’s latest trend report, Meet the HENRYs:  Positioning for the High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet Mass Affluent Consumer, examines in detail the most important demographic distinctive for affluent marketers, which is income with two key segments identified as HENRYs ($100k-$249.9k) and the top 2% Ultras ($250k and above) and gives new understanding to the five different personalities that make up the U.S. affluent consumer market each with their own special take on what luxury means to them.

By understanding the demographics of affluents, luxury marketers will know who has the available discretionary income to afford luxuries.  With insights into the personalities and their motivations toward a luxury lifestyle, marketers will gain even more valuable insights into the willingness of those with the money to spend on luxury.

  • Bring It into Focus: Because luxury purchases are made across at least 21 different categories of goods and services, each with its own unique purchase pattern, Unity Marketing offers Luxury Snapshot Reports that give marketers basic purchase behavior data in each luxury category. Each Snapshot report gives the facts about who is buying, what they are buying, where they are buying and how much they are spending.
  • Create a Customized Strategic Plan: Let Unity Marketing help you devise a unique strategic marketing plan for your business that links target customer demographics, psychographics and purchase behavior to optimize growth and reach.  Email  pam@unitymarketingonline.com or call (717) 336-1600.

Unity Marketing’s business is helping marketers that target the high-end, affluent consumer to find their special customers, understand their behavior and psychology so that you can market successfully to them.  We try not to inundate and overwhelm with numbers, though data is an important part of our work.  But rather than just giving you a bunch of charts, tables and graphs full of data, we work to interpret the data into insights and information that you can put to use immediately to market more effectively.

Our goal is to offer actionable strategies for luxury marketers across a wide range of industries and product or service types.  Together, we can prepare for the uncertainties that lie ahead for luxury marketers.

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How Alex and Ani Proves Experience Is the Most Important Product You Sell

October 26th, 2013
Collectible Jewelry Company Ties Products to Experience to Create the Next Big Thing
I love great, individual, yet affordable, jewelry that lets me show my personality, and right now I’m crazy about Alex and Ani.  If you aren’t familiar with this eco-friendly, spiritually-inspired company with unique options in bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and rings, you soon will be.  And the triumph of Alex and Ani is the story of a company that understands the way to use experience to sell merchandise.
Get Inspired>>
Alex and Ani Links Jewelry to Experience
Alex and Ani may be best known for their series of adjustable bracelets, each with a small charm attached.  Not only can these bracelets (and the companion necklaces and earrings) be adjusted to each wearer, they are made for collecting.  The bracelets are ideal for today’s “stacking” trend, such that a wearer can choose multiple bracelets, each with a charm and beading that is significant to the person, with designs for both him and her.  Sample charms include sports team logos,sorority letters, and a variety of shapes and icons that encompass spiritual, religious, travel, and hobby themes.  Each bracelet is very affordable, starting around $24, meaning the wearer can buy some for herself and also buy them as gifts.  No doubt, Alex and Ani will be on many people’s gifting list this holiday season.
The idea of build-upon jewelry is not new.  There was the popular add-a-bead necklace in the 1980s, and many of us still love the customizable bracelets from PANDORA.  But Alex and Ani have taken this a step further by offering a product that is virtually limitless in its expansion abilities.  While PANDORA-style bracelets are limited by the circumference of the wearer’s wrist, the Alex and Ani bracelets are designed to be laddered up the wearer’s arms, as many or as few as she likes.
Plus, these items incorporate the element of experience that has been so successful for other add-on jewelry brands.  Alex and Ani bracelets turn a memorable experience into a concrete item instantly.  For example, cheer on the Red Sox to World Series victory with a Cap Logo bracelet or show your support for live folk and jazz music with a signature Charity by Design charm with proceeds donated to the Newport Folk and Jazz Festival.  The possibilities are endless to style and combine a statement for one’s wrist, with each link representing a memory or an interest.
The formula is working for Alex and Ani. The company has experienced meteoric growth, with sales skyrocketing from $4.5 million in 2010 to $80 million in 2012.  The company, ranked byINC. magazine as #95 among the 500 fastest growing companies in 2013, currently employs about 650 people and expects to have nearly 60 branded-boutiques open by the end of the year along with a growing cadre of independent retailers, both domestic and foreign.
As Don Draper famously said in Mad Men, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”  Alex and Ani have changed the jewelry sales conversation from focusing on the merchandise to focusing on the memory.  In the process, they are poised to be the next big jewelry brand.  I’ll remember that conversation every time I look at the stack of bracelets on my arm.
Take Action>>
Acquire the Tools You Need to Be a Successful New-Age Jewelry Marketer
Whether you are a small shop, a mid-sized jewelry chain, or a big brand, you need to understand how to market to the new target customer efficiently, as Alex and Ani does.  Unity Marketing offers a range of services to help:
Understand the landscape of specialty retail market:  Order A Declaration of Independents: A Study of Specialty Independent Retailers.  This 48-page report gives marketers that sell through specialty retailers the baseline understanding needed to ramp up sales efforts into the independent sales channel.
Get the roadmap for successful retailing:  Specialty Independent Retailers: A State of the Business Survey is a 75-page report that goes in-depth to examine the challenges and concerns of the small independent retailer, written exclusively for the special needs of independent retailer.
Dig deeper into the mind of the consumer:  Unity Marketing has a new trend report that examines the emerging mass-affluent consumer, the HENRYs – High Earners Not Rich Yet – who disproportionately make up the target market for premium jewelry brands like Alex and Ani, as compared with true luxury brands like Cartier or Bulgari.  Gain insight into their growing numbers and importance to jewelry brands both high and low in Meet the HENRYs:  Positioning for the Mindset of the High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet Customers.
Let me help:  Let me help you devise a unique strategic marketing plan for your business that links product to experience.  Email me at pam@unitymarketingonline.com or call (717) 336-1600.

Collectible Jewelry Company Ties Products to Experience to Create the Next Big Thing

I love great, individual, yet affordable, jewelry that lets me show my personality, and right now I’m crazy about Alex and Ani. If you aren’t familiar with this eco-friendly, spiritually-inspired company with unique options in bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and rings, you soon will be. And the triumph of Alex and Ani is the story of a company that understands the way to use experience to sell merchandise.

Get Inspired>>

Alex and Ani Links Jewelry to Experience

Alex and Ani may be best known for their series of adjustable bracelets, each with a small charm attached. Not only can these bracelets (and the companion necklaces and earrings) be adjusted to each wearer, they are made for collecting. The bracelets are ideal for today’s “stacking” trend, such that a wearer can choose multiple bracelets, each with a charm and beading that is significant to the person, with designs for both him and her. Sample charms include sports team logos,sorority letters, and a variety of shapes and icons that encompass spiritual, religious, travel, and hobby themes. Each bracelet is very affordable, starting around $24, meaning the wearer can buy some for herself and also buy them as gifts. No doubt, Alex and Ani will be on many people’s gifting list this holiday season.

The idea of build-upon jewelry is not new. There was the popular add-a-bead necklace in the 1980s, and many of us still love the customizable bracelets from PANDORA. But Alex and Ani have taken this a step further by offering a product that is virtually limitless in its expansion abilities. While PANDORA-style bracelets are limited by the circumference of the wearer’s wrist, the Alex and Ani bracelets are designed to be laddered up the wearer’s arms, as many or as few as she likes.

Plus, these items incorporate the element of experience that has been so successful for other add-on jewelry brands. Alex and Ani bracelets turn a memorable experience into a concrete item instantly. For example, cheer on the Red Sox to World Series victory with a Cap Logo bracelet or show your support for live folk and jazz music with a signature Charity by Design charm with proceeds donated to the Newport Folk and Jazz Festival. The possibilities are endless to style and combine a statement for one’s wrist, with each link representing a memory or an interest.

The formula is working for Alex and Ani. The company has experienced meteoric growth, with sales skyrocketing from $4.5 million in 2010 to $80 million in 2012. The company, ranked by INC. magazine as #95 among the 500 fastest growing companies in 2013, currently employs about 650 people and expects to have nearly 60 branded-boutiques open by the end of the year along with a growing cadre of independent retailers, both domestic and foreign.

As Don Draper famously said in Mad Men, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Alex and Ani have changed the jewelry sales conversation from focusing on the merchandise to focusing on the memory. In the process, they are poised to be the next big jewelry brand. I’ll remember that conversation every time I look at the stack of bracelets on my arm.

Take Action>>

Acquire the Tools You Need to Be a Successful New-Age Jewelry Marketer

Whether you are a small shop, a mid-sized jewelry chain, or a big brand, you need to understand how to market to the new target customer efficiently, as Alex and Ani does. Unity Marketing offers a range of services to help:

• Understand the landscape of specialty retail market: Order A Declaration of Independents: A Study of Specialty Independent Retailers. This 48-page report gives marketers that sell through specialty retailers the baseline understanding needed to ramp up sales efforts into the independent sales channel.

• Get the roadmap for successful retailing: Specialty Independent Retailers: A State of the Business Survey is a 75-page report that goes in-depth to examine the challenges and concerns of the small independent retailer, written exclusively for the special needs of independent retailer.

Dig deeper into the mind of the consumer: Unity Marketing has a new trend report that examines the emerging mass-affluent consumer, the HENRYs – High Earners Not Rich Yet – who disproportionately make up the target market for premium jewelry brands like Alex and Ani, as compared with true luxury brands like Cartier or Bulgari. Gain insight into their growing numbers and importance to jewelry brands both high and low in Meet the HENRYs: Positioning for the Mindset of the High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet Customers.

• Let me help: Let me help you devise a unique strategic marketing plan for your business that links product to experience. Email me at pam@unitymarketingonline.com or call (717) 336-1600.

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Exploding the Retailer’s Myth of Black Friday

October 9th, 2013

Why Waiting Until the Holidays to Target Gift Shoppers Could Cut Your Share of Gifters’ Revenues by Nearly Half


Tradition states that “Black Friday” – the day after Thanksgiving – is the day when retailers actually begin to make a profit after all their work throughout the year.  But today, Black Friday is less important when it comes to finding opportunities in the gift-giving and shopping market.  And retailers who wait until late November to expect a profit are leaving nearly half their potential sales on the table.


Get Inspired>>

Learn About Consumer Buying Behavior Throughout the Year

Gift-giving occasions occur throughout the year.  Consumers have many opportunities to buy gifts, including occasions like birthdays, weddings, holidays, graduations, housewarmings, and the like.  Indeed, Unity Marketing’s research shows that some 45 percent of gift spending occurs at times other than the traditional Christmas gift-giving season.  And in Unity Marketing’s latest gifting survey, the share of annual spending on occasion gifts rose faster than that for holidays, of which Christmas accounts for the largest share.


Not only that, but fourth quarter retailer revenues have become less and less important to the annual “take” of GAFO (general merchandise, apparel, furniture and other) retailers.  In the past twenty years, GAFO fourth quarter earnings went from 33 percent of the yearly total to just over one-fourth in 2012.  Clearly, the trend in shopping malls, shopping centers and on Main Street USA where GAFO-type stores congregate is toward more equal consumer spending throughout the year.  This means marketers and retailers need to think about ways to drive gifting sales throughout the year, not just during the Christmas shopping season.


That means retailers need to be on their gifting game, not just on Black Friday and through Christmas, but all year round.  Retailers need to focus on the gift-giving holidays and occasions that occur at different times of the year and prepare to attract the gifting consumer with gift selections and gift shopping experiences that attract the shopper in need of an appealing gift item.


Take Action>>

Learn How to Attract Gifting Consumers All Year Long


Unity Marketing’s research can help you understand your target customer and his or her needs and desires.  As I have analyzed our latest research on gifting and the retail environment, the secret of retail success is to focus on merchandising, rather than on the merchandise.  In other words, retailers need to think more about how they sell, rather than what they sell.   It is about creating that customer-centric environment that gives visitors to your store or brand a positive experience every time.  Our research tells you who your target customers are, how they behave, and how to reach them with actionable items buttressed by hard data.

How can Unity Marketing help you succeed?

Let me know how I can help you succeed in a competitive retail gifting market.  Email me at pam@unitymarketingonline.com or call (717) 336-1600.

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How to Get the Best Speech for Your Event

September 25th, 2013

Why Unity Marketing’s pre-meeting surveys guarantee the best speech for your needs

Have you ever attended a speech that was just plain disappointing?  I know I have.  After the meeting organizer builds excitement for a conference keynote, an in-house training, or a special meeting, the speech itself often fails to satisfy.  The attendees walk out feeling flat, rather than inspired.

Get Inspired>>

Survey your meeting attendees before, not after, the speech to get the presentation your audience needs

Often, a speech that misses the mark is not entirely the fault of the presenter.  These speakers may know their subject areas, but they speak on what THEY wish to speak about, not about what your group or company needs.  By failing to accurately learn about the background, knowledge, and needs of the audience, these presenters can give little more than a shot in the dark, hoping that their talk lines up with what the audience most needs to hear.

I have been involved in hundreds of meeting, conferences, presentations.  Almost always meeting coordinators/planner conduct a survey AFTER the speech to rate speaker effectiveness, value of presentation, and the like.  But that isn’t the time to do a survey.  You need to do the survey BEFORE, not after, the presentation to find out what information the attendees need and expect, and what will have the most impact on them.

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Choose the speaker who delivers what your audience needs

As a speaker, I lead with research to prepare a short, online survey that organizers can send out to the attendees to find out what they need, want, and expect, and where the gaps are that I can fill. These surveys take less than five minutes for the attendees to complete, and they do so online.  The difference this information makes to my presentation, however, is dramatic.

From these surveys, I learn about my audience members’ job roles, their key marketing concerns, their belief about industry trends, their perceived knowledge gaps, and much more.  Then, I take Unity Marketing’s proprietary research and analysis and use it to answer the outstanding questions and take the group’s knowledge further.

The response to this practice has been remarkably positive.  Clients are excited about participating in the surveys because they see it as a way to participate in improving their presentation and also to improve their program, because I share the results with the organizers ahead of the meeting.  The entire event suddenly is customized to the specific needs of the attendees, increasing value and improving outcomes.

This is one of the differences that comes from hiring me as the keynote, trainer, or facilitator at your next company event or conference.  To discuss more about how I can improve your next meeting, please email me at pam@unitymarketingonline.com or call (717) 336-1600.

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