Running Insight 3.1.19

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Standing Out Paul Kirwin provides insight into how specialty retailers can be noticed in a crowded environment.


aul Kirwin is the founder of 3.5 and has spent more than 20 years working with specialty retailers. He recently wrote his first book, “Stand Out in the Age of the Consumer,” and Running Insight asked him about the book and his thoughts on how retailers can be better marketers. Running Insight: You say that consumers receive 360 marketing messages a day. How do retailers cut through that incredible clutter? Paul Kirwin: Yes, it’s hard to believe, but that’s why consumers have found ways to ignore all the noise. Instead, they focus on voices that deliver them authentic opinions about a product. Retailers and retail associates are still a part of that authentic voice, but they should know that 90 percent of consumers consult reviews when making a purchasing. The good news is that 50 percent of these consumers end up in a store to buy. Retailers can be proactive by employing a tool that helps them understand and make decisions on this big voice. You built a company that focused on the last three feet of the sale. How has that last three feet changed today and what should retailers know about that? That three feet is now more important than ever. When consumers walk through that retail door they are well researched, have money in their pockets and want to touch and talk about their potential product choices. Retailers should make sure their sales staff can engage on a higher level, have options when the product isn’t in stock, and when it is … close the deal. What’s the most important aspect of the Consumer’s Path to Purchase today and how will that change in the coming years? The Path to Purchase is all about personalized research. But in today’s connected world, personalized doesn’t mean knowing 16

those reviews. This information flow will help retailers with everything from stocking the best products (that match up with what shoppers are reading in reviews) to having informed conversations with shoppers about the consumer rating of products. It will also tell them about their brand partners’ performance in the general market place.

a person. Through product reviews, shoppers have unprecedented reach into a highly relevant and authentic data set of experiences other purchasers have had with the products they’re considering. And they’re looking to validate their own storyline with what they read. One of my favorite examples is a baby safety gate manufacturer whose product was often used by pet owners. The review star average was dragged down by some pets jumping over the gate, a problem they would never have with babies. Parents were able to see past the negative reviews referencing pets to find their own storyline: that these gates worked well to keep their babies safe. In the future all of this will become faster and even more convenient. However, there will always be a need for that human touch: talking with friends, visiting with retail salespeople at stores, reading online reviews from the average Joe and joining communities. As these tribes or communities grow, their buying power and influence will also grow. Talk about Brand Report Cards and how retailers should assess their brand partners. Retailers should assess their brand partners by benchmarking them through the eyes of the consumers. Retailers should insist that brands measure reviews and then share the results. This starts with the star average assigned in product reviews and continues with the sentiment and textual trends of

Marketers talk a lot about Authenticity. What is your POV on that? Authenticity is now a ground game. When brands respond to bad product reviews with an 800 number or a long URL, that’s not authentic. When the brand representative tries to be personal without introducing herself, that’s inauthentic. When she doesn’t have the power to immediately fix a problem, that’s not authentic. When a brand shoves mass advertising into the marketplace while ignoring the messaging created in product reviews, that’s not authentic. To stand out, you must be human and that means listening, incorporating the language of the user into your advertising, pushing power down to your customer service reps so they can engage human to human, and having respect for where the real power in the marketplace is. Consumers want humanity and it sells. You write about the “Loyalty Loop.” What is that? Consumers are fast and fickle beasts. They rely on information they obtain on their own from one another, not only at the click of a mouse but at the uttering of “Siri” or “Alexa.” Studies have shown this reliance on user-generated content is to increase with younger generations. To win loyalty, today’s brands and retailers must have an ear to the ground for these conversations and make decisions that help them with product quality, communications and brand quality. This is how to win loyalty today. n

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