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The Zoomie Awards: 2020 Winners

It’s been a few strange months of not being around each other every day, but we found a way to get around that. We wanted to create a little engagement with each other while we worked from home, so we decided to create the first ever Zoomie Awards. For these awards, we nominated our co-workers for some fun Zoom-related awards, including “Most likely to turn themselves into a potato” and “Always has the best Zoom background.”

 

Winners of each category received bragging rights and commemoration in the form of this blog post.

 

Without further ado, the winners of our first ever Zoomie Awards!

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What’s In Store? The Future of Retail in a Post-COVID-19 World

The lockdown and economic fallout caused by the emergence of the novel coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for many industries. While for some industries interruptions to consumption habits may prove to be temporary, some trends affecting the retail industry look set to become more enduring or even permanent.

COVID-19’s Early Impact on Retail

  • Discretionary spending has contracted sharply, down by almost 9% in March 2020
  • Sharply reduced demand for new apparel, footwear and accessories
  • May 2020 retail sales data for the US showed a 17.7% increase—a new record—but more time is needed to understand whether this is an anomaly reflecting consumers unleashing pent-up demand from March and April or if it’s the beginning of a new upward trend
  • eMarketer forecasts US total retail sales will fall more than 10% in 2020 and won’t return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2022
  • eMarketer is also calling for e-commerce sales to increase by 18% this year
  • Coresight Research predicts between 20,000 and 25,000 store closures this year, of which 55% to 60% are within malls—a new record
  • The previous high was a loss of 9,300 locations in 2019 

Even before COVID-19 came along, retail has been engaged in a gradual, decades-long transformation. However, the pandemic has rapidly accelerated many of the changes that were either already happening or inevitable. Retailers must now quickly adjust and prepare for new customer experiences in a post COVID-19 world. 

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Brick & Mortar Stores

As noted above, traditional retailers were engaged in a battle for survival long before the pandemic emerged. Many vanguards of the brick-and-mortar retail world have been closing stores and shedding debt and lease obligations through bankruptcy proceedings for years. To date in 2020, we’ve seen JCPenney, Neiman Marcus,  J. Crew, Stage Stores, Pier 1 and Tuesday Morning all announce bankruptcy. Other venerable names, including Brooks Brothers, a leading force in apparel retailing for over 200 years, are said to be appointing advisors and may not be far behind.

 

Of course, bankruptcy can be an opportunity to regroup, reorganize, recapitalize and, hopefully, emerge as a more viable competitor. Many of the bankrupt retailers will return with a leaner physical footprint and fewer employees. For those who didn’t get their digital footprint and e-commerce strategy right the first time around, they’ll have a welcome chance for a reset.

 

There are other implications for the brick-and-mortar retail landscape, including issues impacting operational complexity and the supply chain as well as what to do with the overbuilt and now unneeded shopping mall space throughout America.

 

The oversupply of mall space has been worsening for decades. Changes to the US tax code enacted by Congress in 1954 encouraged mall development by permitting accelerated depreciation. As a result of this financial engineering, the growth rate of shopping malls between 1970 and 2015 in the US was twice the rate of growth of the population over the same period. In recent times, fewer shoppers were heading to malls. In the period following the financial crisis of 2007-2008, mall visits declined by 50% and have continued to fall since even as the economy rebounded.

 

Fashion and apparel retailers are now stuck with high inventories of the wrong season’s products, having been forcibly closed since the first days of Spring. This not only drives up storage costs but can also contribute to the tendency for retailers to sweep away distressed inventory through deep discounting. The problem is, when consumers become accustomed to buying at a discount they are less willing to consider paying full price again when the economy recovers, as we saw following the Great Recession twelve years ago.

The Impacts of COVID-19 on E-commerce

As destructive as the pandemic has been for traditional retailers, it’s been the opposite for e-commerce retailers. While there is a long-established trend of switching shopping habits from brick-and-mortar retailers to online stores, COVID-19 has accelerated this change considerably. In just three months, it caused movements that may have taken five years to manifest without the tailwind of a pandemic.

 

Italy, the European country with the highest number of infections and deaths from COVID-19, has seen e-commerce transactions rise 81 percent since the end of February. Across Europe, an additional 13 percent of consumers said they would browse online stores for the first time. While in China, large groups of new customers—specifically those aged 36 and above and those living in smaller, less prosperous cities— have begun shopping online in greater numbers.

 

But for all of its growth and potential, online shopping misses out on at least one aspect of in-store shopping— the impulse purchases that take place in-store. 89% of women and 78% of men report adding additional items to their cart during an in-store visit. 

How are Retailers Responding to COVID-19?

With the decline in in-store traffic, it’s no surprise most retailers have seen a corresponding dip in their sales. But there are opportunities to be found and nurtured with services such as curbside pickup and BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick up In Store).

 

These hybrid marketing approaches offer convenience to consumers by allowing same-day (often within two-hour) collection with no additional shipping or handling costs. However, they also create new challenges for retailers in the areas of labor, inventory management, software and point-of-sale systems and even parking lot space utilization. 

 

Orders placed online for collection by these methods increased by 208% in the first three weeks of April 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. They are proving to be a popular choice with consumers who may wish to continue shopping this way even when regulations can be relaxed and stores can fully reopen. It remains to be seen whether retailers will eventually try to de-emphasize these methods due to their higher costs. 

 

Many of the hundreds of thousands of new jobs created by grocery retailers in recent months have been to staff these hybrid shopping models. And while that’s a welcome storyline at a time when millions of American workers have been furloughed or displaced altogether, time will tell whether grocers will continue to bear the additional costs when other options are once again viable.

What Will the Future of Retail Look Like?

Retailers need to evolve by redefining the role of the store and integrating technology at the right points in the customer journey to streamline and improve the shopping experience. 

 

We hope to see more integration of contactless, self-serve technology that allows customers to navigate the store and find what they need as quickly and safely as possible. Already in some retail environments, such as Apple stores, customers are able to make purchases from anywhere in the store rather than gathering in a line at a register. Integrating voice assistants and mobile technologies can assist customers in achieving their goals inside the store with innovations like wayfinding—directing customers to the aisle displaying the products they’re seeking. Elevating the customer experience and improving customer service will be key.

 

The opportunity exists to better integrate the online and in-store shopping experience. For example, customers could engage with content about a styling experience or menu plan online then be able to purchase everything needed conveniently pre-packaged and ready for purchase in the store.

 

Even once COVID-19 is somehow controlled, consumers are likely to respond well to open spaces, or at the very least the feeling of openness. Store layouts need to be reworked for a better flow of customers.

 

In certain areas of retail, it’s possible we could see wider use of some of the concierge-style services luxury merchants previously reserved exclusively for their VIP customers. Personal shoppers, private or semi-private store access and other exclusive privileges could become additional, optional elements of the shopping experience.

 

At Tallwave, we see the challenges facing retailers as opportunities to reimagine a new shopping experience. If you need help thinking through the evolution of your retail operations, give us a call. We’d welcome the chance to work with you to evolve your customer experience and keep your customers coming back time and again.

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Our Unique Approach to Successful Businesses

Successful partnerships help companies innovate and grow. However, choosing a partner is often an overwhelming process because it’s difficult to differentiate among the options. Most agencies, consultancies, and vendors operate with a mindset of doing exactly what a client asks for, often leading to identical approaches, with little distinction other than price. If you’re evaluating primarily based on price, you may be fine with all your potential partners taking similar approaches, but in the end this strategy is short-sighted, narrow minded, and often backfires in the long run.

 

At Tallwave, we take a different approach. Whether you’re a current or future client, we apply a curious and empathetic mindset to all of our work. This often means we ask a lot of questions upfront, bring in diverse team members from multiple disciplines, and seek to put ourselves in our client’s shoes. At times, we even challenge client assumptions. While this process takes a bit more discovery, it allows us to focus our efforts on the right tactics from the very beginning, which yield better long-term results and help build stronger relationships between us and our clients.

 

Whether you’re a current or future client, we apply a curious and empathetic mindset to all of our work.

Here’s our approach to successful partnerships:

We Ask Plenty of Questions to Understand Our Client’s Needs

From the initial interaction with a potential new client, we seek to understand their unique challenges and needs. We may start with the client’s request, but we also take the time to dive deeper and understand how the request truly meets the needs of the business.

 

For example, one of our media clients, who relies on readers to become contributors, recently asked us to develop a custom application to help them recruit and onboard up to 1,000 new content writers per month. After a few collaborative sessions with their team, we realized their biggest challenge was making the self-serve application more user friendly and intuitive for on-boarding writers.

 

Given this knowledge, we decided to focus on redesigning the onboarding experience and leveraged Salesforce for the backend management instead of building a full custom application from scratch. Not only did this approach speed up their timeline, it also cut development costs in half, which could then be reapplied to other critical areas of the build.

 

Ensuring our client’s success is always our main priority at Tallwave. We achieve this by being mindful of the client’s goals and challenges in order to gain a deeper understanding of their business. In the end, the outcome may not be what the client originally had in mind, but this approach allows them to save time and money while still reaching their business objectives. 

 

Ensuring our client’s success is always our main priority at Tallwave. We achieve this by being mindful of the client’s goals and challenges in order to gain a deeper understanding of their business.

We Switch on a Dime When Circumstances Change

As a strategic partner, it’s our responsibility to adapt quickly as trends and shifts occur in the marketplace, whether it’s a new technology, regulation changes, or something much bigger like COVID-19. Not only do we have to understand the changes, we also have to be able to rethink priorities and help clients adapt so they can reach their bottom line.

 

While all of our clients were impacted by COVID-19, several were impacted more than others. A crisis like this could have been devastating for one of our food distribution clients, whose entire business revolves around providing food supplies, goods, and services to small restaurants. The pandemic forced all restaurants, regardless of size, to completely flip their business models – and when you’re in the business of servicing those restaurants, you really have to flip your business plan.

 

Our client had to quickly become a resource for their restaurants. Working with our client, we quickly created a multi-step action plan and resource center that detailed ways for restaurants to transition to a fully-digital presence. 

 

Our plan included instructions and guidelines for Google My Business (GMB) posts so restaurants could clearly advertise their availability for take-out or delivery, while also informing potential customers of their location and updated business hours. We provided recommendations to prepare restaurants for take-out only services, including prioritizing safety while working with third-party delivery apps, eliminating touch points between employees, remaining transparent with customers, and updating their online presence. We even provided a few strategic ways restaurants could get creative with their offerings. 

We Have a Continuous Focus on Outcomes

We’re always looking for new opportunities to drive growth for our clients.

 

As an example, we recently worked with a commercial printing client on a full-scale rebrand after they acquired several competitors. Through the process of diving into the business, we identified an opportunity to drive revenue by diversifying their customer base.

 

Even though it was not part of the original scope, we did an analysis into our client’s loyalty program and found that two-thirds of the company’s revenue came from only 10-percent of their customers. Going deeper, we found that their messaging, content, and marketing tactics were really only geared to one persona.

 

With this knowledge, we were able to recommend a strategy to build an experience and conversion path for other personas.

 

By helping every client we work with develop a better understanding of their business and the market landscape, we’re able to root out and address assumptions early to bring fresh perspectives and ideas that focus on the right challenges. It’s an approach that takes a partner who appreciates this type of pushback, but we’ve found that the clients who are open to alternative approaches and think outside the box can adapt their strategies to be more successful in their endeavors. Our relationships with clients are always more fruitful when we’re squarely focused on what matters most – making our clients wildly successful.

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Badass CX in the Time of COVID-19

To say that COVID-19 has changed the way we look at things would be a gross understatement. News cycles continue to churn out information, and we —as brands, consumers and humans in general— continue to respond.

 

We’re all human. We’re all being impacted by this. 

 

As marketers, we’re seeing the customer journey change quickly and often across industries and market segments alike – and many of these changes may well be permanent. 

 

The path forward isn’t clear by any means, but the brands that quickly and proactively adapt will survive and hopefully, come out of this stronger. Customers have begun demanding transparency, recognizing, and responding to authenticity and social responsibility now more than ever.

 

Last week, we polled our team to ask if they’ve had any personal experiences with a company navigating changes with them (as customers) really well in a COVID-19 world. Did any brand demonstrate an ability and  commitment to adapt their customer experience to meet the rapidly evolving moment? We wanted to know.

 

The answer was an overwhelming, “yes.”

 

In the responses, we saw four key themes emerge, illustrating just how companies are adapting their CX to meet the needs of their customers.

Theme 1: Adapt  with Empathy

This situation stinks for everyone. Now is NOT the time to nickel and dime. It may feel counterintuitive, but it’s not the time to make things difficult in order to protect your business.

 

Now is the time to break what are traditionally non-customer-friendly practices (ahem…airlines and travel).

 

By the way, this isn’t just a B2C issue. Business owners and business stakeholders are people too.

 

  • Shopify  has shown that it is dedicated to helping small businesses. Amongst other things, the brand made physical and digital gift cards available on all new and existing Shopify plans, and committed to making $200 million in small business funding available to lend some much needed support to the community.

  • OpenTable is recognizing the massive impact the restaurant industry is experiencing. They activated their customer base and sent an email to users encouraging support for the community with examples on how we can help restaurants during these times. It came across as altruistic while providing actionable information.

  • Chicago Cubs/MLB: When the remainder of Spring Training was cancelled, an email went out from the Cubs organization proactively detailing that refunds would be issued for all purchased tickets, exactly how they would be received, and the timeframe refunds could be expected in. There was no action needed from the customer. 

“It was nice to receive everything in one email and not have to worry about contacting anyone to get a refund.”

 

Westin helped tackle cancelling non-refundable reservations with no hassle, in a matter of minutes.

 

After the announcement was made that Broadway would be going dark, Telecharge proactively got cancellation emails out by the end of the day, making clear its plan to issue full refunds with no action needed from the customer.

 

American Airlines flights to New York (that were booked with points, no less) needed to be cancelled quickly, in the eleventh hour.

 

“I had a really long wait time, but once I was on they were nice, quick, and frictionless to get the points returned.”

Theme 2: Adapt Proactively 

Consumer behavior has been changed, for sure in the short-term. Better to be there first, anticipate the changes and make proactive adjustments if you can.
 

  • Blue Apron: With news of COVID-19 beginning to take off, Blue Apron’s business spiked and the brand was quick in communicating with its customers weeks in advance about the changes needed in order for everyone to be served within their dietary restrictions.
    [Blue Apron’s] customer service has also been helpful since I wanted to change the serving sizes on my orders.

  • Costco: “Staffed up for the rush and changed their business workflow to appease the customers and maintain sanity.”

Sanity may be a relative term, but we applaud the company for doing its best in these strange times.

  • Booty’s Burgers and Wings
    “It’s our favorite local wing place and we wanted to help them out. They have a system set up for pickup that limits any contact. Very fast, easy, and tasty!”

     

  • Texas Roadhouse quickly deployed a very efficient system for pickup where you didn’t even have to get out of your car – and had a good takeout deal too.

  • Pat Tillman Foundation: Instead of cancelling their charitable run in April, the nonprofit is transforming it to be a virtual run. 

“It's pretty cool. They're encouraging users to share as they run. Great way to keep the momentum virtually!”

Theme 3: Adapt Altruistically 

Quickly developing an altruistic model, or leveraging one that already exists. 

“Opportunistic” doesn’t have to have a negative connotation if it’s true to your brand, has an authentic voice, and strives to be helpful to the situation.

  • Allbirds quickly spun up a donation model in which they implemented a buy one, donate one model for getting shoes to frontline healthcare workers.

Their statement read: “Beginning March 24th and running while supplies last, you can bundle any shoe purchase with a donation to immediately supply a pair of Wool Runners to a healthcare professional who’s already reached out to us. Don’t need a new pair yourself, but still want to help? That’s an option, too.”

 

  • TOMS has a good campaign running right now centered around how “we can all use some extra comfort” and that we’re in this together. The shoe brand has a sale on sale for its slippers. 

“The messaging was tactful and helped with some normalizing, [giving] a break from seeing only COVID in my news feed.”

Theme 4: Adapt Radically 

The badassiest of all. There are many, many companies who are pitching in to help, but two specific ones came up in our office poll. One, in particular, is a local company that is no doubt further solidifying its already strong brand, but winning new customers and brand advocates.

 

The “doing good is good for business” mantra has never been more true than right now. 

 

O.H.S.O. and Fruit Brands, et al will reap the benefits of doing the right thing today.

 

No doubt, the impact of this virus will continue to grow. And the changes we’re all faced with making today will live on. Since we’re all in this together, let’s continue to make those changes for good.

How has your customer journey been impacted by COVID-19? 

What has your company been doing to adapt  during these times?

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Choosing the Right Partner for Your Business

If you’re a leader at a company, no matter what industry you’re in, your goal is the same: nurture the business and help it grow. But growing an organization takes a lot of work. You need to understand your evolving marketplace, competitors, and customer needs. At first, handling everything in-house may seem doable, but growing a team at the same pace as your ambitions can sometimes be too much. At Tallwave, we believe that in order to meet your organization’s goals you should be doing a little of both in-house and partner collaboration.

 

If you’re on the fence about working with a partner, we get it. Relinquishing aspects of your business to an external partner might be easier said than done, especially if your business is your baby. Here’s what to look for when selecting the right partner.

In-House vs. Agency

We don’t believe in separating in-house and agency work – we should all be striving to do a little of both as an organization. An agency partner isn’t going to know your brand as well as your in-house team, but your team might not have the resources to adequately scale your business. Working with a blend of both should result in an achievable but strategic plan to grow your market share.

 

If your tactics have not been performing as desired with an in-house team, it’s not that there’s a lack of expertise. More likely, it’s a lack of experience. This is where having an agency partner comes in handy. Making business decisions in-house with people who are in the day-to-day may result in similar ideas you’ve already come up with – the same ideas that could be stunting your growth. A partner can help you locate blind spots and bring a fresh perspective, new techniques, and the experience that an in-house team might be lacking. Since helping brands is the entire purpose of agencies, they are able to help businesses reach their goals with the resources, creative approaches, and networks they use.

 

An in-house team may also be too invested and biased towards their current models and processes, which could limit their ability to make bold, but necessary decisions. Working with a partner can bring an objective perspective and help push businesses towards making these key decisions. Additionally, partners see similar patterns in challenges, goals, and circumstances across companies. This is usually much broader than what an in-house team has come across. A good partner can leverage their work and capacities across clients with similar business models while acting as a counterpart to your deep domain expertise.

What Do We Look for in a Client?

While the client is vetting us, we’re doing the same to ensure we would work well together. We want to feel just as comfortable working with them and vice versa. As a partner, we’re looking to help our clients grow, expand their business, and reach their goals. We want to work with change agents within companies who have dug a little deeper than your basic, high-level thinking. We want potential clients to come to us looking for an answer on how to solve a specific problem.

As a partner, we’re looking to help our clients grow, expand their business, and reach their goals.

For instance, instead of saying, “We need somebody to do SEO for us,” we’re looking for clients who have asked themselves, “What program am I trying to drive?” Now, if you haven’t asked yourself these questions, that’s okay! As your partner, we can help you uncover these larger questions you’re having trouble answering. Maybe you need help with customer acquisition or full funnel conversion optimization. When clients ask themselves these deeper questions, we can see that they’re hungry for growth and looking at a more holistic picture, rather than their immediate needs. This way of thinking will make them more responsive and open to new ideas on how to achieve their goals.

 

We also look for a willingness to learn and collaborate with our potential partners. As outsiders, we don’t know your brand or customer base as well as you. This is where collaboration comes into play. By working with your in-house team to learn the ins and outs of your business, our teams will be able to develop a better strategy to help reach your goals.

What Should Clients Look for in an Agency?

As noted before, both agencies and clients are vetting each other before settling on a partner. We’ve noticed that many companies today are still looking for vertical expertise. This means clients look for partners that have experience in only one type of industry or specialized needs. We understand this rationale – if you’re in the healthcare industry, you might want a partner that has experience working with other healthcare clients. However, this way of thinking could result in similar campaigns to competitors or outdated technologies. Isn’t the point of working with a partner to think outside the box and set yourself apart from the competition?

 

In today’s world where the customer is everything for a brand, you should be looking to understand the customer’s motives and needs. With this in mind, clients should be looking for a partner that has worked cross-industries, is focused on the customer experience, and truly understands user personas and needs. In turn, the partner they choose to work with should be able to design and drive performance for their client no matter their industry, trade, or profession.

 

Next, you should be looking for an agency that is ready to learn the intricacies of your business. The way we like to do this at Tallwave is by setting up workshops with our clients to learn the brand and how we can help meet their goals. We pull in our client consultants, capability consultants, and salespeople to ask more in-depth business questions than a typical agency. We ask that our clients do the same by bringing their key stakeholders into these workshops. Rallying up the people who know customer experience, acquisition, and the brand will give an agency partner the ability to see a full picture of your business. While these teams will likely have different initiatives, budgets, and perspectives, they all impact growth.

 

Last but not least, you should look for a partner that is going to challenge you. They shouldn’t be overly aggressive, but they should have a strong enough voice to stand by their decisions. Being challenged by your partner means they’re invested in the right outcomes for your business, not just the work.

 

Deciding which approach works best for your business can take some time. It took Tallwave some time to figure out how we wanted to work with our clients as well. We started as three separate companies that focused on separate initiatives. After some time, we pulled those three companies together because we saw the need to combine those different skill sets in order to achieve solutions for our customer’s biggest pain points. Since merging, we’ve done a lot of learning and growing ourselves from our clients. This added knowledge has helped us refine and adjust our tactics as needed so that we’re able to cater our services to each client, regardless of their industry. If you’re still not sure what’s best for your business, give us a call. We’re more than happy to talk through this journey with you.

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Why Customer Experience Can’t All Be Data Driven

Customer experience (CX) is reshaping the way brands do business. Having a customer-centric approach is no longer a buzzword. It’s a linchpin to the success and longevity of organizations as competitive landscapes continue to evolve at breakneck speeds.

 

As more organizations begin to realize the customer must be at the center of all they do, the question then becomes: who should own the experience and what data should be used to construct it? The fact of the matter is, one person or even one department, cannot be held solely responsible for running point on CX. It must be woven into the entire company – and it can’t be built on data alone.

 

Don’t get us wrong, CX initiatives should most certainly be constructed around shared data points from across the organization, but numbers shouldn’t be the only ingredient. Leaders must remember emotion is also a key factor in effectively delivering a winning customer experience.

 

It takes a delicate balance between understanding data and keeping real emotion in mind. But if your organization doesn’t figure out how to leverage the two to create an unforgettable experience and emotional connection, customers will start looking elsewhere.

Going Beyond the Data

Yes, the data gives powerful insights into customer and prospect behavior. We can identify purchase behaviors, what messaging they responded best to, what content they engaged with, and the list goes on. But at a more fundamental level, do you know what prompted your customer to even begin their search for a solution in the first place? Or even who or what along their purchase path may have influenced their decision-making process?

 

These are questions that will only be answered through one-to-one conversations with customers and prospects. Talking with your customers enables you to dig deeper and really get to know the person behind the purchase.

 

Also consider the person making the purchase may not be the one using your product or service. It’s important to talk to both the purchaser and end user. With this insight you are better equipped to not only make more effective marketing decisions, but also know which functions, features, and updates to prioritize based on user feedback, which impacts the customer experience.

 

Also consider the person making the purchase may not be the one using your product or service. It's important to talk to both the purchaser and end user.

 

Beyond serving as an important feedback loop, conversations with customers also give you a way to test and eliminate assumptions while understanding how your product or service makes your customer feel. Forrester released a report outlining the importance of emotion as it relates to customer experience and loyalty. After interviewing 45,000 consumers, the findings revealed that emotional experience accounts for almost half of customer loyalty to the brand.

 

So while customer numbers and account activity should be part of your data collection and reporting process, what your customers feel while using your product matters and should be measured.

Building the Path

If coordinating one-to-one conversations with customers and prospects sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. It can be. There are ways to systematize and even automate to a certain to degree in order to make these conversations a much more fluid process. This approach has to be a company-wide effort and even woven into the fabric of your company culture. This is an all-hands-on-deck operation.

 

This might start with automated feedback loops – general surveys or quick Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys – but then there has to be a process for reviewing and taking action on that feedback. Who on your team will be responsible for collecting, analyzing, and acting on the data? Keep in mind, in many cases, this will not be a one-person job.

 

For instance, if the feedback is pertaining to a product issue, perhaps there’s a person on the product team who is elected to run point on customer outreach. This person can help better understand the issues the customer may be having. Or for more general feedback, it could be someone on the customer service or success team. Once the feedback is collected, it’s key to take the conversation to the next level with a direct conversation with the customer.

 

Who on your team will be responsible for collecting, analyzing, and acting on the data? Keep in mind, in many cases, this will not be a one-person job.

 

Consider nominating a CX advocate in each department as every step of the customer journey contributes to the individual experience. A recent report revealed that 75 percent of consumers expect companies to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage with them both online and offline.

 

The first step to delivering a positive customer experience on all fronts is ensuring your internal procedures are consistent company-wide. This is where things like data collection processes and procedures are paramount.

 

Remember: the decisions based on data are only as good as the data collected and the ease of data accessibility to everyone within the organization. If your data isn’t properly collected, or even if it is but it’s locked up, you’ve already lost.

Asking the Right Questions

There are plenty of specific insights that will be valuable to various individuals within your company. Your product team will want to understand feature usage. Your sales and marketing teams will want to understand what hooked them to finally sign up for a demo.

 

Uncovering a particular customer experience requires a specific set of questions. To ask the right ones, start first by making a list of the ways you think you are already delivering a good experience.

 

It’s time to cut through the norm and ask the prodding questions. If you don’t, they’ll find another product that can do similar things, and make them feel better while doing it.

 

Once you’ve identified the valuable and actionable data, it’s time to consider what changes your organization should make to improve the experience your customers are having. And remember, this is a company-wide effort. Work first on building the infrastructure for supporting a customer-driven approach, then begin the outreach.

 

Not sure where to start? We can help. Give us a call or sign up for our conversion audit service. Here, we’ll help you pinpoint where your customer experience is lacking.

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How to Brainstorm for Innovation

We’ve all heard it before: “You only have to be 10% smarter than the object you’re operating.” Simple, but surprisingly motivating. For entrepreneurs, this thought could mean the difference between just having an idea and actually having it come to fruition.

 

An idea is like a baby – You protect it and nurture it, and even before it’s born, you are in love and find yourself picking out colleges. As exciting as generating an idea can be, it’s also where the risk lies. You fall in love with the execution of an idea too soon with no plan on how to actually perform the execution.

 

Here are a few ways you can brainstorm for innovation and follow through with your ideas.

Stop and Think

Before you charge forward with executing your idea, stop and think. Seriously – spend half a day getting dirty, ideating, and iterating on all the possible permutations. You might know the end game and the value proposition, but do you know whether users want to do what you’re asking? Or if your approach to the market is the right one to achieve your goals?

 

Take this for example: Let’s say you have a product that aims at improving online searching and bookmarking. Your initial vision is a browser plugin that remembers your favorite places and recommends search results based on what you like. Could be cool, right?

 

This is where you need to stop and think. The vision has potential, but will that execution drive the highest engagement and build momentum as quickly as possible? Maybe. Before picking that route, consider brainstorming some different permutations. What if instead you created an API that worked with a bunch of existing products with large user bases? What if your product was super targeted toward a very specific demographic, like high school students? You see where this is going, right? Great.

Brainstorming 101

Brainstorming isn’t always easy. Sometimes there are too many brains in the room, other times there aren’t enough. If you’re in a room full of execs, there’s a chance you’re afraid to share your ideas for fear of being shot down. When it comes to brainstorming, everything goes.

 

A good brainstorming session should include the following:

A Goal

When your brainstorm comes to an end, what is the goal you want the group to achieve? This goal should be your main focus throughout the session. As long as this end goal is kept in mind, unconventional and outlandish ideas are always welcome – sometimes these are the ideas that lead to something tangible.

A Diverse Group of People

At Tallwave, we like to involve people from different departments in our brainstorms. Oftentimes, this group consists of both people who are involved in the day-to-day of the project and external team members. External members may have previously worked on this account or helped solve a similar problem for another client. Being heavily involved in a project can cloud your judgement. A mix of main-team and external team members bring knowledge and a fresh perspective to the brainstorming session.

A Simple Structure

Don’t overthink a brainstorming session. Too many rules and regulations will kill the vibe and might make people panic. This could lead to an unsuccessful brainstorming session. Instead, keep a simple structure. Maybe a warm up with a summary that gets sent out to everyone afterward.

Here are a couple of our favorite and simple brainstorming activities to help drive innovation.

3-12-3 Method

This method refers to the amount of time given to the three activities this session includes. Three minutes to think about the characteristics of the topic at hand and write down as many as possible. Next, take twelve minutes to develop concepts, either with a partner or in small groups. Anything goes during these 12 minutes – rough sketches, prototypes, or other media can be produced during this time. These concepts will then be presented to the rest of the group, with a maximum of three minutes per presentation.

This method is awesome for coming up with multiple variations of a concept or idea.

How-Now-Wow Matrix

The How-Now-Wow method involves some artistry. Begin by drawing a 2×2 matrix with “originality” in the x-axis, and “feasibility” on the y-axis. The top right corner of your matrix will be the “How” section. This is where you put the ideas that are original and innovative, but not feasible at the moment. The “How” section can help influence future goals or objectives.

 

The bottom left corner will be your “Now” section. Here, you’ll put ideas that are unoriginal and familiar, but also easy to implement and are known to work well.

 

The bottom right corner will house your “Wow” concepts. These are ideas that are original and also easy to implement. Forming ideas that fall into this section should be something to strive for during the brainstorming section.

 

This concept can also be great for “closing,” or ranking, some of those ideas you came up with during the 3-12-3 activity.

Wellbeing North Star Method

Projects don’t always go as planned. This is a great method for evaluating some of the flops you may experience on your projects. Begin by drawing a star in the middle of a whiteboard or large poster. In the center, write the topic your brainstorm will be focusing on. This could be a project, a daily schedule, etc. On each point of the star, you’ll write what you want to focus on and discuss with your team. This could be graphics, communications, advertisements, upcoming tasks, etc.

 

Distribute sticky notes in two different colors to everyone. For a few minutes, have your brainstormers write what they like about the aspects on each point of the star on one color. Next, have them write what they dislike about each aspect. Once everyone is done, have them present their notes and post them under their respective aspects.

 

This method is extremely helpful in determining what is and isn’t working on a project or to evaluate an idea. Sometimes we like to flip this one around by focusing outward to analyze competition. This helps us better understand where there is opportunity for disruption.

 

When it comes to innovation, a brainstorming session can be your ticket to success. Give these methods a shot. If you need more help, you can always call us.

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Is Traditional Media Dead?

Radio, newspaper, and television. Marketing tools of the past, right? Maybe not. Online, digital, and mobile are certainly at the forefront of marketers’ minds these days. The ability to directly track the performance and return on investment (ROI) of these digital marketing efforts is highly beneficial, and often necessary for brands with smaller budgets. However, we shouldn’t be so quick to write off traditional advertising all together. Studies show that it still plays an important role in attracting customers.

 

Take, for example, American’s overall media consumption rate. It’s on the rise and, surprisingly, traditional media (print, radio, tv, billboards, etc.) is at the forefront. Studies show that the average person listens to 112 minutes of radio and watches nearly five hours of television per day. Based on these numbers, and assuming radio ads roughly 30 seconds each, the average listener hears at least 32 ads per hour. When it comes to television, the average person will be subject to about 13 ads per every hour of television watched. When you combine these traditional ad numbers with the millions of adults who tune into television and radio on any given day, the ROI of traditional advertisements is astronomical.

 

Not only do people still consume traditional media, but it also remains a trusted source for information. According to a MarketingSherpa study, 82% of consumers say they usually trust print advertising and 80% say they trust television advertising when making a purchasing decision. This study also found that traditional advertisements have a high engagement rate. More than 50% “often” or “always” watch tv ads from companies they like as well as read the print ads they receive in the mail.

 

Just because traditional marketing is at the forefront doesn’t mean you should abandon your digital marketing efforts either. In fact, combining both strategies to form an integrated marketing campaign can strengthen your marketing efforts and increase brand visibility.

What is an Integrated Marketing Campaign?

While digital and social media have opened new opportunities for communication, there will most likely always be a place for traditional media. Integration is the key to marketing success. So what does an “integrated” marketing strategy look like? In the past, it was a strategic mix of television, radio, and print in order to reach your customers everywhere, all the time. Today, an “integrated” strategy combines digital and traditional approaches to reach your audience wherever they are and in a way that makes them stop and listen to what you have to say. While the concept is simple, the execution can be challenging.

What Do I Need Before Starting My Integrated Marketing Campaign?

The method behind seamlessly integrating all of your marketing efforts will differ depending on your goals and your industry. But, first and foremost it is always necessary that your branding is consistent everywhere. This means ensuring that messaging is consistent and that the same colors, fonts, style, and taglines are used across all platforms. Integrate traditional and digital by mentioning your website URL in radio ads and/or having it appear in both print and television advertisements.

Where can I advertise?

The general rule of thumb to keep in mind with traditional advertisements is that the more places consumers see your ads, the more likely they are to remember your product. Here are five strategic ways to combine your digital and traditional marketing efforts.

Magazines

Magazines are a good place to start when it comes to traditional media. Magazines are often targeted toward a very niche demographic, so these can be a great place to reach very specific target markets. For an integrated marketing campaign, most magazines also have a digital platform to advertise on as well, whether it be a website or social media. Be sure to ask about how to combine both services, especially if you’re targeting a niche market.

Billboards and Geotargeting

Billboards remain one of the top ways to advertise in specific markets as they can reach over 90% of the population. Combined with a geotargeted banner ad to hit consumers smartphones after they pass the billboard will make for an extra-strong marketing message.

 

Recently, Tallwave ran a strategic out-of-home (OOH) and digital campaign for our construction project management software client to create a “takeover” strategy during their top competitor’s conference in Downtown Phoenix. This campaign combined strategically placed digital display units along with animation and traditional billboards surrounding the conference venue, as well as at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. This strategy helped raise brand awareness as conference attendees arrived in Arizona and as they attended the conference. Each billboard featured a vanity URL, sending users to an interactive landing page with detailed product information and a short form fill. This allowed us to capture their information and continue to drive them through the marketing funnel.

 

In addition to the traditional OOH placements, Tallwave created a geofencing campaign to target users on their mobile devices as they were at the competitor’s conference. This helped increase overall awareness and allowed users to further interact with the brand. Following the conference, a 30-day retargeting campaign was created with new messaging to continuously engage users.

Newspapers

Although newspapers have been largely moving towards digital publications, newspapers are still a great place to advertise. Depending on your market and target audience, newspaper ads can be an inexpensive way to promote your business or services. These types of traditional advertisements fare well with small businesses or if your budget is small. You can also negotiate online components, like banner ads or social media posts for an integrated marketing campaign.

Commercials

Although it seems like streaming services are taking over, we mentioned before that traditional television consumption is still high. Due to the increasing popularity of streaming services, running television advertisements has become cheaper. Depending on your budget and your audience, you can strategize the visuals for your commercials and determine the best time to run your ads. For an integrated marketing campaign, you can reuse the same content to run ads on social channels or video streaming platforms.

 

Traditional media is not dead and continues to play a vital role in today’s marketing mix. Strategically combining traditional and digital marketing efforts gives your brand the best of both worlds and allows you to reach a wider audience. With more and more brands straying away from traditional advertising, it is opening more opportunities to leverage these platforms in order to uniquely tell your story and really stand out to consumers. If you are in need of some strategic direction, reach out to us – we can help!