Chain Store Age: Finding Us Where We Play

Discussion
Jan 05, 2007

By Samantha Murphy

Through special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt
of a current article from Chain Store Age magazine, presented here for
discussion.

I am what you call an echo boomer. I grew up using the Internet and it’s a vital thread in my life. I get my news from it, I contact my friends through it, I shop through it and, honestly, I can’t imagine life without it.

Many echo boomers are also attracted to the different networking sites available on line, which act as social playgrounds where registered users can interact with friends, share interests and express themselves through blogs, member profiles and message boards. MySpace and Facebook, initially created for students but now open to anyone, are two major players in the online networking world.

Retailers are finding their way onto these sites and socializing with shoppers on a whole new level. And it seems we’re taking the bait. Why would a retailer want in? According to Alexa Internet, a subsidiary of Amazon.com that monitors Web traffic, MySpace is the third most popular U.S. Web site and the sixth most popular in any language.

Facebook was voted the second most “in” thing among college undergraduates. And it comes in second only behind the iPod, according to a survey by research group Student Monitor. Facebook shared its accolade with one other favorite – beer.

Here’s how it works: Members of MySpace or Facebook can join on-line “groups” based on their individual interests. Savvy retailers are taking advantage of these groups via sponsorship opportunities. In fact, a promotion fee (charged by the site) enables retailers to sponsor, control and even create these forums.

One sponsored group on Facebook, PINK Victoria’s Secret, has 210,620 members, with the number rising daily. “Apple Students” has 477,775 members who claim Apple as their computer of choice. On MySpace, there are groups for Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and Juicy Couture. Group links appear on a member’s profile, branding them a supporter.

Companies are taking different approaches to these sites. Some are downright promotional, others are less so. Deodorant brand Secret is taking the subtle approach. Playing off its “What’s Your Secret?” ads, members can post their own secrets, confessing anything from cheating on exams to cheating on boyfriends. And as people open up, Secret wins their trust. At least that’s the game plan.

In order to get the attention of echo boomers, smart retailers are paying to go where young shoppers play. And for me and my friends, it’s online.

Discussion Questions: What does the growing popularity in online networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook mean for retailers? More specifically, what does it mean for retailers that are not mentioned with those (A&F, Apple Store, etc.) that are viewed as being hip?

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17 Comments on "Chain Store Age: Finding Us Where We Play"


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Santiago Vega
Guest
Santiago Vega
15 years 4 months ago

Most of these social networking sites provide only momentary visibility for advertisers.

I don’t believe any advertiser is thinking about them long-term or as a way to create meaningful connections with current or prospective customers. They know that in not too long, these sites (and all their copycats) will only dilute the relevance they once had with a particular demographic and become a thing of the past.

For now, brands are advertising there just to not be left out of a momentarily “cool” site and immediate exposure to many eyeballs, but no sustainable value is being created for them by advertising there.

William Passodelis
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
The opportunities presented by the networking sites mentioned as well as others are not even fully known. The ability to reach a narrow audience with specific advertising will require extra work by an organisation. However, when added together — if multiple opportunities are taken advantage of — they may outweigh a larger “nationwide” advertising approach. The key is to have (a few) people who can keep in touch with the sites of current interest, utilize those and any possible demographics that might (legally) be obtained, and keep an eye to other potential that could provide a boost as well. This is a more fluid environment than companies may have been used to in the past but if done tastefully and not intrusively could be a REAL bonus to any one’s bottom line. Then again, there is always the possibility of starting one’s OWN site. Mr. Murdoch owns MySpace, Sears started WLS Radio, that is the old fashioned version — a fully supported site that is free to use with quiet, non intrusive ads; which may… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
The echo-boomer consumers are not just one group as is any other age-related group. However, people in the echo-boomer group have grown up with technology as a normal part of everyday life. As such, they use technology differently. They also see swiftly changing technology as normal. Now, what does that mean in terms of using MySpace or YouTube? Getting on MySpace or YouTube to check on what these consumers are saying, thinking, and doing is one useful way of understanding one slice of life. Should a retailer be moving to be part of MySpace or YouTube? Of course not. MySpace and YouTube are evolving and changing and by the time you get involved they will be different from what they are today. So should they be ignored? Of course not. Understanding the echo-boomer consumers, in all their many facets and segments, is important. Then the retailer needs to determine which part of the group are their consumers as well as where and how those consumers use the internet. Then you decide whether the internet is… Read more »
Brian Smith
Guest
Brian Smith
15 years 4 months ago

The online retail market is in the early stages of a potential nightmare: disposable hyperpersonalization. Not only do people expect to access products and services that exactly meet their momentary needs, they are willing to throw them away and start over elsewhere. How hard is it to abandon your MySpace page? Ryze and other online business networking sites are littered with out-of-date profiles.

Loyalty is becoming obsolete in the overall market, and it is making its biggest impact felt in the emerging generation of online kids. It is the duty of marketers to use 1,000 touchpoints in the place of the Old School: print, radio and television.

Jack Borland
Guest
Jack Borland
15 years 4 months ago
While the MySpace and Facebook sites may not be the ultimate winners in social networking, they certainly point the way. Retailers (and others serving the consumer market) should see the explosion of social networking sites as the opportunity to implement narrow cast advertising. Richard Seesel’s points are right on the money. The value of spending for targeted communications to micro-segments is unequivocal. Anyone who jumps into the social networks with a general “broadcast” mentality will miss huge opportunities. The examples of “Think Pink” and “An Inconvenient Truth” show ways to do it right — engage micro-groups, show value, and let the consumers push the message. Brands viewed as hip will be a point of commonality for many micro-groups, but most won’t organize themselves around the brand, because most brands don’t inspire that level of interest or devotion. I’m in agreement with Stephan Kouzomis; retailers need to focus on brand message and promise, and distill it down to something that will resonate for people. Then the company needs to live that brand, so there’s no dissonance… Read more »
Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
15 years 4 months ago

The networking sites are fast becoming another outlet for the marketing people to play in. The smarter marketers will figure out how to best utilize MySpace and Fastbook and such to reach Gen X and Gen Y. This will work for most retailers and brands, but not for all. I belong to a network group called LinkedIn; but that is for professionals. I wonder when the marketers will address the LinkedIn and eCademy’s of this world.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
15 years 4 months ago
What makes this group unique is that this demographic is all about themselves and they sniff out a phony in two seconds. Unlike media generations of the past, these kids define brands by their own lens and media is based on what they consume — not what is pushed at them. No matter what venue, if you don’t have a message, promo, creative, functionality, etc., that connects with them, you’re out! They are not using these sites for advertising; they’re using them to connect with each other. And they don’t want to be “invaded” by superfluous messages — online or in-store. Mark is right, Secret is an excellent example. They crawled inside the heads of these young people and came up with a reason to be present that would mean something to users. We all know that what Secret wanted was those eyeballs and the brand connection. But they clearly knew that they needed a ploy to justify their presence. What I often ponder is the tendency for these younger groups to operate in a… Read more »
William Hamilton
Guest
William Hamilton
15 years 4 months ago

I use both social networking sites: Facebook (favorite) and MySpace. I am a recent graduate from college and find that it is a very effective way to stay in touch with many friends (high school and college).

One marketing campaign that I feel was successful was the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

I was a part of a mass member invite. I watched the movie/documentary preview, and became very interested in the movie. I joined the ‘group.’ I then went and saw the movie in the theater. I thought it was a fantastic film and now I tell people about it when it comes up in discussion. Many people have not heard of the movie… What is the only reason that I know of it? Facebook.

Retailers can and should use sophisticated advertising on these sites. It works.

Job well done Al Gore Marketing Dept.

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

For RetailWire coverage of Second Life, see Try Before You Buy by Bernice Hurst by clicking here

Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I frequently use Facebook to snoop around on my students and I see many of these commercial-related groups there. People gladly align themselves with brands that they favor, but this by itself doesn’t mean anything. No one really does anything there, and they can’t compare to more socially oriented user-driven groups such as “So-and-so was incredibly drunk last weekend and I have the photos!”

So it might seem like a “competitive necessity” for brands to stake out some turf in these new worlds, but I don’t really see why. Many of these networks will collapse under their own weight due to excessive meaningless links (I think MySpace is in great danger of that right now), and serious investments that some brands may make in this arena will be largely wasted (albeit in a different way than the students they are trying to appeal to).

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
15 years 4 months ago

The term I have seen used often is “narrow casting.” Narrow casting is replacing traditional broadcast advertising with viewer specific targeted messages. Maybe retailers need to do the same thing. Instead of expecting consumers to come to their store or website, they need to facilitate “Narrow Purchasing.” They need to allow the consumer to build their shopping cart on the fly while they are engaged in whatever online experience they are enjoying. When the consumer is ready to make their shopping trip, they can either log into the retailer’s online store or take the list with them to their local outlet. The key will be to allow the consumer to “bookmark” the items they want to consider purchasing without distracting them during the immediate experience. Maybe some retailers will even design their own games or other online experiences like car manufacturers have done.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 4 months ago

Corporations as a brand, or with significant/dominant brands, have started testing social networks for their own products. And, as reported, some have invested in these start-up and growing new social networks as well and in turn, capture the category exclusiveness, or primary brand supporter.

This social networking is an X, Y and New Millennium generational need. And, all businesses need to value the Brand benefits of such a possible new media vehicle…especially, if they want to sell such generation groups!

Can established brands and Corporations-as-a-brand-keep up with these new media opportunities? Hmmmmmmmmm

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Ian is right and wrong. People do rule but only until other people figure out how to co-opt them. Rupert Murdoch owns MySpace and he’s hardly the poster boy for anarchistic expression (excluding his own of course). Retailers might be well served by studying how “free” sites are expropriated by commercial interests. Look at YouTube. At first you had anti-ads on the site. Now you have corporate viral media seeping in. There’s a digital evolutionary pattern at work here that’s worth the time it takes to decode it.

Dick Seesel
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Marketers always need to be alert to “new media” as part of their mix, especially if they target younger or more tech-savvy consumers. What’s changing is merely the speed at which these new marketing vehicles develop. (Who would have expected YouTube to attain such mass appeal as quickly as it did?) The waiting period for technological developments to filter down from “early adapters” is getting shorter and shorter.

So, a few key questions for retailers and marketers considering using MySpace, YouTube, or “the next big thing” as an ad vehicle:

1. Is it going to reach my target customer?

2. Is it a cost-efficient part of my overall media mix?

3. Is it appropriate to the brand I’m trying to build and grow?

If you can answer “yes” and can use online advertising in a novel way that drives volume, then don’t sit on your hands!

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

For any retailer, trying to reach any demographic group, word of mouth is the most effective sales promotion tool. So it can pay to use the internet to help stimulate positive word of mouth advertising. The most creative example cited: Secret deodorant. It’s a mature brand not created for young adults. It’s easier to use a young-adult medium (social networking internet sites) for brands already positioned for that audience (Apple and Abercrombie & Fitch, for example). Furthermore, manipulating social networking sites isn’t a high investment strategy, so it can be tested and implemented easily compared to larger investments like TV, magazine, and new packaging campaigns. And internet campaign results can be measured, so if the strategy isn’t working, you’ll know it.

Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

People rule! Always have. Always will. We’re moving from an age of “You’ll take what you’re given!” to an age of “It’s all about me.” It’s the ‘Me’ generation all over again – just online this time. (I hate it when I start seeing cycles)

In looking at the two major sites mentioned the words MY(space)and FACE(book) leaped out. Retailers need to play in this territory but they’ve got to learn ‘how’ to play. If you try to transplant traditional marketing into these sites you’ll be gone in a heartbeat. Here’s the ONE word you need as a mantra if you want it to work for you: PERSONALIZE!

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Look who owns MySpace (which by the way is about to launch its own music label)! Obviously, you go where the market is. But, come on. Let’s not be so dated in our discussions. MySpace is so totally last year. Why aren’t we talking about commercial development on SecondLife which just produced its first virtual (and literal) millionaire?

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