1 Good Reason – Social Marketing

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Observations from Retail’s Big Show

January 12th, 2011 · 1 Comment

I attended “the Big Show” otherwise known as the National Retail Federation show 2011 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York city.  I found the show to be very interesting and educational with a very strong interest in location based services.

I want to first state that I was embarrassed over the failure New York City’s Jacob Javits Center to serve the  attendees.  The center had almost no cell phone coverage, 3G on both AT&T and Verizon was overloaded and unavailable.  SMS messages took 10-20 minutes to deliver if they got through at all.  And the show stopper was that they actually offered wifi service for a fee and even for Manhattan the prices they wanted to charge were insane.  They were asking for $4.95/hour, $30/day, $70 for 3 days or $650 for 7 days for 256K or 512K of internet access.  (According to my friend David Polinchock who served as my guide for the show.)  These prices are driven by the “I can charge a captive audience anything I want, mentality.

Offering wifi service for $30 per day at a conference where the main story is mobile networking, and cellphones don’t work is insulting to your attendees.

I had promised to live blog some sessions during the show but was unable to do so.  But the most damaging thing to the business of the show and the attendees was the missed connections.  I know several people who were supposed to meet each other at the show but were unable to connect because phones didn’t work at all.  I was unable to tell people about the show and invite them to come down and see it, which in Manhattan is a real possibility because people will easily jump in a subway and head across town to the event.

Social media in the retail environment

I stopped by several booths with vendors offering some type of retail social media solution.  Almost every solution for managing a Twitter and Facebook  network was designed for a small group of people.  To get your Social Media Team talking with your audience.  In my mind this is a strategic mistake for vendors and their clients.

Cisco and SAP offered new social media engagement products they are rolling out with 30 person limits.  Meaning that you could only allow a maximum of 30 people in your organization to coordinate social media communication.   You should be looking to roll social media out to your field force.  In a retail environment customers will be asking questions which will often revolve around the local retail outlet.  Centralized social media teams can’t respond with any accuracy, or timeliness to these types of questions.  Some of the most valuable social connections your retail organization has are the local management and employees who are friends with the local clientele.

Overall all of the social media products focused on Twitter because it’s the only open searchable database available.  Vendors made a major point of talking about the ability of their systems to retain 18 to 24 months of Twitter data.  However, you must remember that Twitter’s search storage is dismal, so these vendor’s products will only work going forward.  Which of course means you only get the messages you plan to archive going forward.  If you want to do some discovery on terms you’ve never stored before you are simply out of luck.

2011 the Year of  Mobile

Many vendors were talking about the necessity of retailers developing mobile apps.  I fear that many retailers will follow this advice and create smart phone apps.  The problem is the common guidance is to build custom single vendor apps so you can control the shopping experience.   If you think about it, who wants to have a Macy’s app, a Nordstrom’s app, a Kroger app, an A&P app, etc, etc, etc on their phone?  You’ll drop all of these single purpose apps in a second for an all encompassing comparative shopping experience.  I advise all of my retail clients not to create these “walled garden apps” because they will surely fall silently in the smart phone app forest.   Instead work with the best app developers who work with others in your category to find ways to emphasize your brand’s benefits and strengths while allowing comparative shopping.  That horse is out of the barn, don’t try to close the door, instead find a way to attract the herd to your stable.

Conculsion: I didn’t see anything that I’d call innovative regarding social media and retail at the show yesterday.  There is a great deal of talk about the introduction and necessity of mobile applications.

And prepare for an onslaught of custom one-off apps for all types of retailers with little or no audience.  The beneficiaries of this will be software houses selling apps and smart phone vendors with the new jump in publicity with all of these heavily advertising retailers touting their new smart phone apps.  And most of these apps will wither on the vine.

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Tags: Web Wednesday

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