Blog Archives

Best Friend or Big Brother?

People tend to get creeped out when they learn of stores tracking their shopping habits. Like when Target can predict a pregnancy. As a communications professional, I find these things interesting, but when I shared about it on my Facebook (a long time ago) a lot of people commented that tracking customer spending habits is “creepy” or an “invasion of privacy.”

In our culture we knowingly shop with trackable practices. We use credit cards. We use loyalty cards. We like free stuff. We like good deals. Why do many feel it’s gone too far to follow our habits and give us what we want?

I registered my Giant Eagle loyalty card online to start loading automatic discounts to my card for effortless grocery couponing. Not too long afterward we got a great set of personalized coupons in the mail along with a “rewards statement” tracking how much we’d saved on weekly specials, fuel perks and food perks. Each coupon was for something that we regularly purchase, like $1 off any produce or $1 off meat or cheese from the deli counter. There were six in total and the next time I was at the grocery store, I used five of them. We continue to receive coupons  based on our regular shopping habits and when I bought groceries on Tuesday I saved an extra $6 from these personalized offers.

We get free drinks at Starbucks because we registered our card and let them keep a log of how many drink we purchase.

There’s a mutually beneficial relationship in these sorts of programs. Stores can find out what they’re regular customers want the most or what hardly ever leaves their shelves. They can win over business by offering you discounts on products that you might need for the next stage of your life or for your next cookout. As a consumer, you can save money at the places you already shop and improve your relationship with their regular haunts.

Sure some tracking sounds like Big Brother, but does sending you coupons mean that companies are going to steal your personal information? Do loyalty programs mean that a store can control your actions?

No and No.

It’s a tactic for building better relationships because after all, Marketing 101 (103 if you took my Intro to Marketing class) tells you that it’s way less expensive to maintain a relationship with a customer you already have than to build a whole new relationship with a whole new customer.

The brands just want to be your best friend… or some sort of friend.

Still feeling a bit paranoid? Don’t want to be tracked? Then don’t use a loyalty card when you shop and pay with cash.

Related Posts:

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Ask and you shall receive

I love getting mail (even if the mail doesn’t love me). I also know that I’m not alone in liking free stuff.

The Stuff

On two separate occasions, I signed up on Facebook pages to receive something free.

Mio released two new flavors: lemonade and blueberry lemonade. Already being a Mio user, I got excited when they let Facebook fans request to try a “sample” of one of the flavors. I  requested a blueberry lemonade. Six to ten days later, I had a full-size blueberry lemonade in the mailbox.20120501-084807.jpg

Target (or maybe it was Target Style) allowed their Facebook fans to request a free beauty bag with product samples. I jumped on the opportunity to try some different skincare problems and get some bonus coupons. When my Target beauty bag arrived, it was better than I had expected! The bag alone was worth the time spent submitted my request. Read the rest of this entry

Say Thanks!

Thanksgiving is coming up and more and more things are happening that make me realize how important it is to say “Thank you.” Honestly, it’s two words that go a really, really long way with people.

I was knee deep in wedding thank you notes when I got really sick with DKA and was admitted to the hospital, then the whirlwind of our lives happened and the thank you notes (75% written) sat unsent and I felt like scum. Everyone had been so generous and so supportive of us, but they were still waiting on a thank you note. In this case, I figured that “better late than never” applied.

In our everyday lives, expressions of gratitude are extremely important. But looking on a larger scale, and into the communication industry, gratitude goes a super long way with customers, supporters and partners. Saying “thank you” is a big part of customer service (as are using other basic manners).

Non-profits are usually great examples of organizations who have saying thanks down to an art. Without generosity and support they can’t succeed and they frequently acknowledge that. An organization which I particularly close to that does a fantastic job of saying thank you is Humane Ohio. I interned for them when I was a junior at Mount Union. They take gratitude seriously with a section of their e-news dedicated to saying thanks and constant social media updates about how awesome their volunteers are and about organizations that partner with them for fund raising.

A picture straight from the Humane Ohio Facebook page

Read the rest of this entry

The Twitter Conversation

Twitter is an awesome tool, especially for brands. It’s a communication channel that offers so much and not enough users take full advantage of the channel’s potential.

Twitter isn’t like other marketing channels where you put your message out there and then let go. Twitter is a conversation. It seems like a general concept in marketing courses that it is cheaper to maintain existing relationships than to build new ones. That means to keep your clients involved.

What I’ve noticed on Twitter is that many of us clients try to have that conversation on Twitter with our brand but we’re talking to ourselves. For example, I tweeted about my awesome cruise vacation and I tweeted @ the cruise line (don’t worry, I was not aboard Carnival’s Splendor!). I got nothing in response. I actually tweeted @ them several times and not a single “enjoy your vacation” response was made. Wow!

That was the cruise industry. I decided to try the wedding industry. I tweeted @ my wedding dress designer about how awesome my dress is. Nothing. So I tried something a little less global, I tweeted @ my university. And again, I got nothing.

There are many questions that can be asked from this experience and some insights that I simply want to share. First, the cruise and wedding industries rely heavily on referrals. Therefore I say to them: have the conversation! Talk to your cruisers, wish them happy travels. Talk to your brides, if they don’t feel connected they won’t recommend you to their friends. Follow Friday is a cool concept, but don’t make that the only time you tweet @ someone else.

So my questions are:

To facilitate the conversations, am I as the consumer not saying the right things to my chosen brands?

If it’s cheaper to keep a relationship with me, someone who has already spent money on the brand, why not join the conversation?

Or do they just need their dedicated “tweeter” to take some lessons in Twitter as a conversation channel?