EXPO Staff Gives Back

This past weekend EXPO staffers carried on a tradition for the third year in a row and participated in two different walks to support some great causes. We sat down with our Campaign Manager, Emily to ask her all of the details about organizing the EXPO staff and what it was like to once again participate in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women in NYC.

Nicole: What made you want to organize the EXPO staff to participate in Revlon’s Run/Walk for Women?

Emily: In the past we’ve done walks to support causes and find it’s a great way to help others. Everyone in the company can participate in this type of activity and I love that we can all come together for a great cause.

Nicole: How was the day of the walk?

Emily: It made me smile to see so many happy faces early in the morning on a weekend! Everyone was genuinely happy and excited to come together with strangers for such a great cause. Normally people in NYC live such fast-paced, busy lives so it was a nice change to see people enjoying the outdoors and other people’s company while walking to raise money for women’s cancers.

Nicole: Why did you specially choose the EIF Revlon Walk/Run For Women?

Emily: We’ve done this walk in the past, and want to continue to show support for specific charities, while also looking for new ones. EXPO wants to make sure we continue to show support for causes whether we have a certain connection or not.

Nicole: What kind of charitable activities do you see EXPO participating in in the future?

Emily: We hope to continue to find more foundations and organizations that put on these types of activities where everyone in our company can participate. It’s important for the EXPO staff to support each other and their friends and family, as well as causes that a lot of people can benefit from. This past weekend EXPO was also represented by our Account Manager, Fred and his family as they participated in the Autism Speaks walk in NYC.

Huge thank you to Emily for organizing the EXPO team at the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women and Fred for sharing the details of the Autism Speaks event!

Rethinking the Brand-Retailer-Consumer Ecosystem

Over the past few weeks there have been two developments in world of retail that shed some light on the tough-to-read mindset of the American consumer.  First, JCPenny (or JCP as they have re-branded themselves) fired their CEO Ron Johnson, formerly of Apple, after they saw a 25% drop in sales and billions of dollars in losses.  Most people blame this failure on efforts to take the retailer too upmarket.  Following the Apple model, Johnson tried to make the stores more experiential and premium, reduced the number and value of sales, and offered more contemporary, slimmer-cut clothing.  Obviously none of this appealed to JCPenny’s base – the average American consumer.

Then, Tesco announced that they’re going to close their 200 “Fresh & Easy” stores in the United States.  Apparently the blame here lies with Tesco not doing their homework; the branding was actually too down-market.   BBC UK quotes Allyson Stewart-Allen, head of International Marketing Partners: “Fresh & Easy just didn’t look like an aspirational product…Americans don’t want to be told they’re on a tight budget, and Fresh & Easy’s concept was all about people on budgets.”

If nothing else, this damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario should cause retailers to rethink their role in the brand-retailer-consumer ecosystem, and how they can add value for both brands and consumers.  With online shopping, the rise of big-box stores, and the still suffering economy, a consumer’s shopping experience is rarely, if ever, defined by the stores where they shop.  Nowadays, many consumers “showroom;”  they do research online before going to a store, they may go to a store to try products on or see them in person, and then they go back online to find the best deal.  With the rise of m-commerce this trend is only exacerbated.  According to a recent report from Business Insider Intelligence, almost every major retailer is at risk from mobile showrooming: “IDC predicted that smartphone use would influence between $700 million and $1.7 billion in U.S. holiday season retail sales in 2012. Fifty-nine million U.S. shoppers will use their smartphones to showroom in 2013.”

Therefore, retailers shouldn’t necessarily focus on putting their consumer in neatly-defined buckets with carefully tailored experiences, but should take advantage of a trend that cannot be stopped.   First, make sure the eCommerce website and even their brick-and-mortar store is a resource where consumers can easily research products.  By featuring reviews, comparison engines, in-store digital kiosks and other tools to make shopping easier, retailers will not only increase loyalty, but consumers will actually spend more for the better product if they understand why it’s better.  According to comScore research, “After watching a video review, 40 percent more consumers considered the product unique and differentiated. Category shoppers who are willing to pay more for the product rose by 30 percent after watching a video review. Simply by displaying the availability of consumer videos (through a thumbnail), consumer willingness to pay more rose by 13 percent.”

Here’s an example where EXPO member Pat J. explains that she’s willing to pay more for an Estee Lauder product because it’s good on her sensitive skin and the compact is sturdy, which is great for when she travels:

Second, retailers should be more collaborative and open with the manufacturers and brands that they sell.  Sharing sales and consumer data will help inform promotional and merchandising decisions which will drive sales for both retailer and manufacturers.

The over engineered, and misjudged, retail experience of JCP and Tesco reminds me of a great insight by the Ad Contrarian.  Trying to predict the attitudes and preferences of every given shopper on any given day is impossible.  Appealing to the consumer’s desire to make the best purchase decision possible, at the best price and as quickly as possible, is far more important than the logo of the store where they bought it.  If shoppers think to start their shopping experience at your website, there are more opportunities to get them to complete their shopping experience there too.  This is what Amazon does so well.

Guest post by: Adam Paul
Adam can be reached at: adam@expotv.com or 212-500-6560

Anatomy of an Online Reviews Platform

When developing an online reviews platform, capturing consumer sentiment is half the battle. Understanding how to effectively leverage that sentiment to achieve your business objectives is the other half.  Consumers are quick to spot the difference between brand selected, carefully curated Testimonials and authentic, unbiased Customer Reviews.  By following these guidelines, brands can establish credibility for the reviews on their website, and in doing so, become a resource for consumers that will ultimately lead to online, and offline, sales.    According to research from AYTM Market Research, 70% of US internet users sometimes compared prices or read reviews before visiting a brick-and-mortar store, and one-fifth always did.

More reviews = More Credibility
There’s a reason that most E-Commerce sites prominently display the number of
reviews that have been submitted about a product, as well as a quick access guide to see the distribution of positive and negative reviews.  More reviews, and more types of reviews from more types of people, equals more credibility.

Stats vary on exactly how many reviews are needed to establish credibility.  According to Revoo, a social commerce company, 50 or more reviews per product can lead to a 4.6% increase in conversion rate.

When a Negative Really Isn’t a Negative
Marketers are concerned about what to do when “more reviews” includes negative reviews. Understandable since it goes against every marketing principle to speak negatively about your own products.  However, according to Reevoo, bad reviews convert 67% more than the average consumer.  While counterintuitive, the underlying principle is that even though the person may or may not buy that exact product, they have confidence in the reviews, and they’re engaged.  They will spend the time to read other reviews about the product (hopefully positive,) or will spend the time to look at other products from the manufacturer which they will ultimately purchase.  This requires a shift from using your website and other digital channels as a brochure about your products, to a resource for consumers which they will proactively seek out.

Cater To That Engaged Consumer With Multiple Paths
There are many different types of consumers that come to your website, and many different paths they will take.  There are those that have an idea of the product or products they are most interested in, and reviews featured on the product page will give them the confidence they are looking for to ultimately make the purchase.  Then you have the people that are unsure ­about exactly which product is right for them, and want to explore the full range of products (or, they may be like the consumer above that read a negative review about one product, and wants to see what’s being said about the others.)  For those consumers a centralized reviews gallery prominently placed on the homepage provides quick and easy access to reviews across products.  The reviews gallery also serves double duty and creates credibility by conveying that there are a lot of reviews, about a lot of different products, from a lot of different people.

Faces Combat Fakeness 
Fraud in online reviews is a big concern.  Last year Amazon was caught up in a controversy about the veracity of reviews on their own website, and according to eMarketer data the vast majority of people only trust online reviews “Somewhat,” and 20% trust them “Not Really” or “Not at All.”  This is not surprising when many text reviews require no authentication from the person submitting the review, and it’s easy to establish fake profiles in order to post reviews, as was the case on Amazon.  However, that dynamic changes significantly when you add photos and video from the submitter.  Featuring photos of consumers alongside their review gives confidence and context about the reviewer, and including video with the review shows that the person actually used the product.  Interestingly, according to ReelSEO, the presence of video on the page, even if it is not watched, increases conversion rate.

Scan-ability
Nobody is going to read or watch 50 reviews about a product, nor should they be expected to.  The goal is to create a sense of volume and range of reviews, credibility, and the ability for consumers to dive into a handful of reviews that give a more in-depth picture.  Brands can guide consumers through this experience by capturing and displaying a lot of data around their reviews, and making it easy for people to scan through that data.  Thumbnails of reviews, overall star rating for the product, individual star rating and a short list of “Pros” and “Cons,” provide a quick sense of overall product opinion, and help consumers choose which reviews they want to see more of.

Give People Something to Do Next
Getting people to read, watch and believe your reviews isn’t helpful if they don’t take action.  While there are any number of things that you might want someone to do, here are three you should consider:

  1. Buy the Product – Whether the person can buy on your own website, other websites like Amazon and Walmart.com or they have to go to the store, make it easy for them to do so.  Calls-to-Action alongside the review, such as a Buy Now button, Where to Buy button or even a Coupon will drive immediate action.  Companies like Channel Intelligence provide a very effective way to drive consumers from a brand site to eRetailers.
  2. Share a review – Helpful reviews will be passed along and should include tools to share through Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc.
  3. Submit a review – People that benefit from reviews are likely to share their own.  Make it easy for them to do so right then and there.

Clarity is Key
People are naturally suspicious of online reviews, which is clear from the eMarketer data above.  The only way to overcome that is to be upfront.  Tell people where the reviews came from – are you embedding them from Walmart.com, YouTube or were they solicited on your own site?  Were people incentivized to share their opinion?  Are you sharing all reviews are just a subset of your choosing?  Telling people will prevent them from assuming the worst.

Cascade is an EXPO client that’s doing all of this right.  They are combining text and video reviews, about many products, both in a gallery and product pages.

For more ideas and information about consumer reviews, especially in video, get in touch.

Guest post by: Adam Paul
Adam can be reached at: adam@expotv.com or 212-500-6560

Buzz Doesn’t Drive Sales. So Now What?

There’s a lot of interesting (some might say scary) data coming out these past couple of days that isn’t very promising for Social Media Marketers.   According to a recent Forrester report, “Posts by companies or brands on social network sites” is one of the least trusted forms of marketing.  This comes right on the heels of a Coca-Cola representative saying “buzz,” defined as “conversations taking place on social networks,” doesn’t drive sales.  Wendy Clark, on the Coca-Cola blog, clarified that “social buzz or chatter does not generate sales lift,” however, more integrated media campaigns that include social media do work.  (We get it, spend millions of dollars on a big advertising campaign and people on Facebook and Twitter are likely to see the content that you spent millions of dollars to produce.)

If nothing else, it’s clear that Social Media Marketing is one of those generalized terms that mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  However, despite all of this negative press about “buzz,” what is clear from the Forrester report is that people do want to hear recommendations from friends, family members, other consumers and professional reviewers.  They always have and they always will…in fact, they’re the three most trusted forms of advertising/promotion according to the Forrester research.

Brands have a critical role, both on social networks as well as other digital properties like their brand site, to help facilitate the sharing of customer opinions.  While they are trying, unsuccessfully, to crack the code on social media with a bunch of liking, sharing, sponsored posts and other forms of “chatter,” they would be wise to focus on, and optimize, their customer reviews platforms.  They have a close connection to the people that use their product, and with a myriad of solutions to mine consumer sentiment and capture opinions in text and in video, brands are well poised to ask for, aggregate and share this content broadly in order to help people make informed decisions.  The key, of course, is transparency and authenticity – explain where these reviews come from, why people chose to share their opinions, and exactly which ones are being shared.

The value for a brand in providing authentic, unbiased reviews, even the negative ones, is tremendous.  Next month Website Magazine takes a fresh look at consumer reviews and quotes Eddie Machaalani as saying, “Don’t be scared of negative reviews – or worse, delete them. Studies have shown that shoppers who read bad reviews convert 67 percent more.  Why? Because when a retailer displays only positive reviews it can look suspicious or fake.  Keep it honest and do your best to work out your customers’ issues, which could result in a positive review, too.”

If you want to learn about the benefits of using a video platform like EXPO for consumer reviews (like the ability to actually see what’s so great, or not so great, about a product,) then get in touch.

Here’s an example of how Betsy M. from North Carolina actually shows how easy it is to get a post-birthday party chocolate stain out of her carpet using Reckitt Benckiser’s Resolve® Triple Oxi Advanced Carpet Cleaner.

 

guest poster: Adam Paul
Adam can be reached at: adam@expotv.com or 212-500-6560

Why Do Little Boys Like Toy Cars?

This article from Business Week highlights a really interesting challenge for Mattel. Moms buy the majority of toys for their children, and moms don’t necessarily get why toy cars are so much fun – so how does Mattel get them to buy more toy cars for their boys? This is no small issue for Mattel as their three toy car brands, Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Tyco R/C, account for $1 Billion and sales declined 1% in Q4 2012.

If you were at the Toy Fair in NYC a few weeks ago it should be apparent that this issue isn’t specific to moms and toy cars. Parents are looking to develop their children’s skill sets earlier and earlier, and toy manufacturers are developing toys to help them do just that. There are toys for musical enrichment, for athletic development, for artistic growth, science and learning toys…the list goes on and on.

The challenge, then, for parents with no musical, artistic or athletic skills, is choosing the right toy and understanding how to engage their child in a meaningful way. Toy manufacturers can help! Find parents that have those skill sets and get them to create videos demonstrating how and why they use your products with their own children.

For the mom figuring out which toy car she should buy for her boys , check out this video from EXPO member Sarah R. about the Hot Wheels 2012-Ferrari 458 Spider.

She loves them because it forces her kids to use their imagination, they are inexpensive and durable. Even with her kids crashing them into each other all the time.

Want help finding parents like Sarah and getting them to create great videos about your products? Get in touch!

Adam Paul – 212-500-6560 or adam@expotv.com

5 Ways to Prevent Crowdsourcing from Going Bad

Crowdsourcing has been a buzz word in the technology space for a long time. With its popularity being at an all-time high, it is no surprise that this has been a major theme at this year’s SXSW. This marketing technique has been used in everything from the Pepsi half time show to the development of television programming like Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live. Although these are both great examples of crowd sourcing done right, that is not always the case.

Putting your precious brand in the hands of your consumers can not only be scary but can be a challenge. These campaigns tend to be very complicated requiring clear structure and the confidence to take a gamble on your customers. In the SXSW session “Brand Fans, the New Brand Marketers,” panelists Jen Saenz (Frito-Lay), Shiv Singh (PepsiCo), and Kevin Knight (Facebook), dove deep into how to do crowdsourcing right. In addition to all of the ways to do it right, panelists shared key tips to prevent your crowdsourcing campaign from going wrong.

5 ways you can prevent crowdsourcing from going bad:

1- Trust your fans. This is the key to structuring your campaign properly and building communication that your participants are really going to react to. If you go in afraid of what your participants may do, your messaging comes through as unauthentic. You need to trust them and let go of control.

2- Educate your leadership about what can go wrong. There are always going to be things that could go wrong. To make sure all of your bases are covered, you need to share the plan and anything that you have uncovered as a possible problem with the leaders in the team. This will make everyone comfortable with the campaign and how to handle rogue users.

3- Make sure you’re a healthy brand with good intentions. Customers can sniff out when you are asking for something unauthentic.  You need a strong brand image and a genuine ask. Make sure what you are asking from your participants is with the right intentions and keeping the users in mind. There is always going to be the chance for a problem participant but if you have the right values, your super users will stand up for you.

4- Attach the submission to the user’s authentic identity. With crowdsourcing, it can be easy for a user to hide behind a user name or anonymous submission. The campaigns that perform the best are the ones that require users to be open and honest. This personal information gives a user responsibility to the submission.

5- Think through the long term game. This is a crucial piece when starting the campaign. Everyone working on the project needs to know the how, why and what you are asking of the participants. This will help with the structure and planning that is key when identifying possible issues. In fact, the panelists recommend bringing in non-participating team members when brainstorming. This will help make sure no stone goes un-turned before a campaign launches to the public.

How are you planning your crowdsourcing campaign?

Sarah Evans Talks Video & Engagement

Day two at South by Southwest Interactive has come and gone. Along with the rain and high winds, we spent the day hopping between some amazing panels, sessions (which we will wrap up later this week) and parties. One of the biggest themes of the day was crowdsourcing to inspire consumer engagement.

Keeping this major theme in mind, we had the opportunity to pick Sarah Evans brain on how she uses video to engage with communities online. Sarah is the owner of Sevans Strategy, a PR agency in Chicago that works with clients such as Macy’s and FOX. We asked Sarah to tell us a little bit about how she would recommend activating and engaging with communities. Hear what she had to say.

What are your thoughts on using video to spark consumer engagement?

Looking For the Next Best Thing

It’s the time of year when the nerds of the world unite in Austin, Texas for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference. Every year, taste-makers from every industry flock to the South to enjoy some of the best panels, parties and meet-ups of the year. In fact, some of the best in social is launched during SXSW including Twitter, Foursquare and more! With all of that excitement going on, it can be hard to put a finger on what makes this event so special.

As I packed up my business cards, stickers and USB sticks in the form of bottle openers, someone asked me what I am most excited about. Hmm…great question. Is it the events? The killer speakers? The endless coffee supply? Maybe it’s the breakfast tacos. After racking my brain to pick the ONE thing that made me most excited – the energy in the city.

The 37,000 plus people that invade Austin are all on the search for the next new thing. They are looking to meet new people, hear about new technology and find the new thing that is going to make them and their company great. The vibe is infectious and something that cannot be ignored when you are in the middle of it.

So what can we expect this year?

Just like past years, we will be attending sessions and parties to report in on the new, the old, and the amazing. We will make sure to keep you up to date on announcements, interview some of the amazing attendees and sum up the killer sessions we attend. Want us to investigate something? Let us know in the comments below. We will do our best to get it answered for you here.

If you’re in Texas, be sure to tweet at us (@expotalks) and use the hashtag #igetmoreplay, we’ll be sure to meet up and buy you a drink (or a taco because they are so darn good).

Small Appliance Industry is Hot – Social Driving Growth

In February the NPD Group, Inc. announced overall industry growth of 5%, with small kitchen electrics leading the charge at 10% growth. There are a couple of exciting things going on here. First, the growth is coming from people “trading up.” Fewer units are being sold, so the growth has to be coming from people opting for higher-priced, and presumably better, products.

This flies in the face of everything we’re hearing about consumer trends and the economy, but having just come from the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, it’s clear that manufacturers are keeping up with consumer demand for better, more innovative, more efficient, and just plain cooler products.

Second, social media and online shopping is playing a big role in getting people to pay more. According to The NPD Group announcement, “Products purchased online garnered nearly 50 percent higher prices than those purchased in a traditional brick & mortar store. Sales of small appliance products researched through social media or blogs increased 33% and items purchased as a result of friend or family recommendations saw the largest increase in average selling price.”

What can manufacturers be doing right now to make sure they’re taking advantage of these trends?

Get real consumers to create videos about their products, and put those videos where people are researching and buying products online; YouTube, Facebook, Brand Sites and eCommerce sites like Amazon, Walmart.com and Sears.com.

Consumer videos combine what’s great about social media – authentic, unbiased opinions – with the ability see the product in action. Here’s a quick snapshot of what consumer videos from EXPO members look like:

 

These videos actually drive purchase by showing how new features help people in their daily lives. Shoppers who were willing to pay more for the product rose by 30% after watching a consumer video from EXPO members. After watching a video, 40% more consumers considered the product unique and differentiated (comScore, 2011.)

Get in touch! We’ll get great videos from your target consumers about your latest and greatest products.

Adam Paul – 212-500-6560, adam@expotv.com

Rounding Up the BCC

EXPO recently teamed up with JWT/OgilvyAction to dig deep into what consumers are looking for from brands online and how a relationship with your customers can impact current and future purchases. It became clear pretty quickly that the most connected consumers or Brand Connected Consumers (BCC) make up about 25% of a typical brand audience and they can have a huge impact on sales.

Elyse Dupre of Direct Marketing News, rounded up the findings to uncover the impact that this special segment could have on a brand including:

BCCs also want the dialogue to be two way. Seventy percent of consumers claim that they’ll stop buying from a brand that doesn’t respond to their online complaints. Unfortunately, 56% of the time a brand will ignore a consumer’s negative post, according to the study.

In addition to the round up of content, Melissa Mazza of Direct Marketing News, pull together an infographic jam packed with stats worth knowing.

Check out the whole article and infographic over at DMNews here.