Quite a few marketing and advertising industry headlines hit our screens this past week. Poor McDonald’s got torn apart over a fish filet sandwich commercial, Walmart sales are giving Amazon a run for their money, and even more talk happened around how artificial intelligence (AI) will be everywhere by 2027. While we would love to give our two cents on fish filet sandwich commercials and marketing machines, we chose to stay in our realm and give you our three favorite stories from the week as they relate to personalization, clicks to bricks and omni-channel marketing.

1. Inside ESPN’s plan to reinvent SportsCenter
You don’t need to be an avid sports fan to know that ESPN has taken a few punches over the last few years. Also, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that social media and smartphone apps contributed to some of the blows ESPN has endured. Over the last four years, ESPN reported losing 10 million of its subscribers. So, what are they doing about it? ESPN announced on Monday some major changes to the programming lineup and talent roster – which explains some of the controversial cuts made in recent weeks – that will set out to personalize the ESPN viewer experience and reach sports fans across multiple channels.

“People don’t watch sports news on TV when highlights are on your phone 24/7, and when the NFL has highlights on Twitter and Snapchat. People don’t need SportsCenter like they used to.” – Rich Greenfield BTIG Cable Analyst

Our Take: ESPN’s effort to go “personality-driven” with their programing with anchor/personality mini-updates throughout the day that will be delivered on not just television, but social media, their mobile app and website, seems a little backwards in our eyes. While we see ESPN taking some initiative here to place more content across multiple channels and personalize the sports news experience, this could be either a big win or a massive blowout for ESPN. For example, “personality-driven” can be risky if that personality is not a fan favorite, and there has been a lot of backlash about who they have announced to bring on board for the new initiative. Frankly, it seems like ESPN is putting more attention on their hosts, and not their viewers. Our advice would be listen to the viewers. Who are their fan favorites? Who will they listen to and share updates from the most? Can their favorite host deliver them a personalized update as they are entering the stadium or tailgating in the parking lot? Now that’s what we call, “fan-driven.”


2. Why researching online, shopping offline is the new norm
RetailDive’s fifth installment of their Consumer Survey Report came out this week highlighting that 65% of consumers conduct online product research before stepping foot in a store. Well, isn’t that a sure sign that brands and retailers need to turn it up a notch with optimizing their digital experiences? Lately, retail marketers have placed a lot of emphasis on ways to use multiple channels and messaging to reach shoppers at their initial point of product discovery and throughout their many paths to purchase. In RetailDive’s survey, they sought to discover the connection between digital and physical browsing and buying habits, specifically, how often shoppers research products online before purchasing them in-store. Here’s what they determined:

  • Two-thirds surveyed said they research online and purchase in-store
  • 55% say online reviews is the most trustworthy channel for learning more about a product, where 47% said just simply researching on the brands website sufficed, and
  • Surprisingly enough, the study found that 57% of males in the 18-34 age range, versus a significantly lower 41% of 18-34 year-old females, always or frequently research products online prior to shopping for them in a store.

Our Take: We’re really not surprised by this “norm.” As smartphones have become a way of life for the majority of Americans, a shopper’s purchasing inspiration and desire for products is beginning where that information can be most conveniently obtained – the smartphone. We believe the need for physical retail stores to stay afloat, has forced marketers to put more initiative into proximity marketing campaigns that are targeting shoppers on their smartphones and driving them into their closest physical store to purchase their necessary and desired products. This is why a compelling mobile experience is key, and also why relevant messaging and notifications are imperative to a proximity marketing campaign’s success. Consumers are searching for products, and what they search is what they expect to get when they walk into the physical store. Don’t lead them astray by not knowing where your product is at the onset of your campaign. Product intelligence is one way to build consumer trust in your ads and further continue the clicks to bricks “norm.”


3. Evolving the Omni-channel Experience in a Transformed World
UPS released a white paper this week, which I was pleasantly surprised to see land in my inbox. As one of the shipping industry’s major retail delivery providers, UPS put the packing tape aside and brought out their own retail marketing expertise and thought leadership. The 50-page white paper is beautifully written and offers intriguing retail and consumer insights from Q&A’s and quotes, to stats and predictions that is definitely worth any retail marketer’s time. And, while omni-channel and customer experience is at the top of every marketer’s to-do lists today, UPS seized the opportunity to offer their view on the retail industry challenges and send their competitors packing.

Out Take: Kudos to the UPS marketing department for tapping into online to offline retail marketing matters. Here are a few things that stood out to us in the white paper:

  • Ship to Store Creates Sales Opportunities
    • We love that UPS is supporting the need to drive shoppers back into stores. In their research they found that over 50% of shoppers have utilized ship-to-store and 46% have made additional purchases while picking up their shipped item from the store. UPS’s goal to help retailers boost ship-to-store services and make package pick up more convenient for consumers is what we call some serious teamwork!
  • Mobile Is the Connector to the Store
    • UPS points out that while shoppers have been comfortable making purchases on their smartphones, they also are increasingly using their smartphones to engage with a store. Everything a consumer could ever want can easily be accessed on their smartphone, so why not let mobile be the starting channel to that consumer’s buying journey, they suggest.
  • Q&A with Elizabeth Terrell, Corporate, Vice President of UPS Enterprise Sales
    • Terrell offers a wealth of market-tested insights and advice to today’s retailers. Our favorite, “Never, ever take the customer out of your bullseye. And, always be mindful of what it is you’re trying to deliver that customer.


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