Category Archives: Social media

Pokemon GO…can retailers learn anything from this latest fad?

Unless you have been living like Brian Cranston’s character at the end of Breaking Bad, in complete isolation in the back woods of New England, you have read about, hear about or even are playing Pokemon Go. A game that builds on the Pokemon franchise, leverages users mobile phones and gives them the opportunity to hunt around the real world looking for Pokemon characters. There have been stories of people literally running into each other while staring at their phone screens as they indexsearch for these characters, robbers setting up people searching for prizes and instead falling into traps. Gamers have even, allegedly, caused accidents as they try to capture rare characters…ugh. But aside from these stories, are there lessons we can take from this latest cult phenomena?  Yes, there are some lessons we can take from this latest fad:

  • Geolocation applications connect the physical to the digital. Foursquare and Gowalla came out a decade ago and motived users to “check” in at locations and earn prizes such as stickers, trophies and mayorships. I wrote about the opportunity back then to use this new scavenger hunting type application to drive your brand and value, click here. These tools have gone through a roller coaster when it comes to “success.” Gowalla went out of business, Foursquare tried to rebrand themselves under Swarm but social media giant Facebook came out with their own check in options – somewhat validating the space. Retailers have dabbled with using these tools to drive traffic, trying to tie promotions to check ins and extract data from user generated data. This did not live up to the hype. But other applications such as Yelp have added check in functionality themselves. Even couponing sites such as Groupon are leveraging geolocation to provide relevant coupons. So what does this mean? Retailers and brands should not look at these recent situations as an indication that geolocation applications do not have a place in driving foot traffic. The impact of mobile on the retail supply chain has been well documented, but being able to influence physical behavior via our mobile devices still holds out potential.
  • Gamification can allow you to engage with your customer. The notion of gamification has been a topic of great excitement recently as more companies are looking to gamify such functions as HR, look at how HCM systems offer point systems that reward employees for working out, eating fruit over Cheetos or taking a yoga class. Event applications such as Doubledutch allow for firms to drive behavior at events where users are rewarded for checking in to sessions, participating in scavenger hunts, posting pictures or using an events hashtag. Firms are scrambling to figure out how to infuse gamification into their service offerings, can we make stale activities more fun? Can we drive consumers to seek rewards like points or stickers to shift behavior? Clearly there are some use cases that are gaining traction. Retailers and brands need to consider how can they use these tools to influence their customers’ behaviors? Companies can look to gamification to integrate themselves into what most of us carry on a daily basis – our mobile phones.

Pokemon Go has demonstrated that the confluence of disruptors such as cloud based applications such as Google Maps, tied into a mobile device which leverages the GPS system and camera, have opened up a new world. A true mash up of the digital world and the physical world. Retailers, who have brick and mortar, need to watch this closely. Can they figure out a way to drive foot traffic to their stores? Can they use the challenge of a scavenger hunt to motivate customers to come to their stores to “find” items whether real or virtual? While there are mixed reactions to the Pokeman Go, retailers should see this as a reminder of what is possible when they tie in the digital and physical worlds.

I will be excited to see a retailer that taps into our phones to allow us to have a scavenger hunt for what shirt goes with a suit, where to find the right cuff links and pocket square and whether monk strap shoes or wing tips are the best. Hmmm maybe someone should develop such an app! Until then, go find a Pickachu!


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Filed under Current Events, Retail, Social media

It’s the customer … stupid.

We are in the middle of event season, which means lots of airplanes, hotel rooms and restaurant dinners (some better than others). During the past few weeks I have flown to all the event hot spots – Las Vegas, San Francisco, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago, New York, San Jose, Miami, Washington DC to name a few. I have also attended a wide range of events, from the likes of Infosys, JDA, Plex, Demandware, SAP, Oracle, Epicor etc etc. There has been one thread that is common – the rise of the consumer. Now this is nothing new to us here at Constellation Research. We have been been touting the rise of the consumer in the commercial ecosystem (B2B and B2C) as the biggest disruptor to date. It is good to hear that the solution providers are recognizing this shift as well.

So why is the consumer gaining in strength?

They have the voice because of social. A growing number of retailers are making sure they do better social listening to gauge how their customers are viewing them. What kinds of features or services might they be interested in. Companies like Newell Rubbermaid or Best Buy, have done a lot of work to keep an ear to the social sounding boards.

Consumers have the reach via mobile. As Demandware pointed out at their show, mobile is king. True mobile meaning our phones, not our tablets, are what sit at the top of the food chain when it comes to customer interactions and touch points. We all know the statistics about how often we check our phones and the fact they are with us almost the entirety of our waking hours. Who could have imagined what Marty Cooper did in 1983 would give us such reach when it comes to the relationship consumers have with the commerce ecosystem.index

The internet provides consumers with virtually unlimited choices. Before we saw the rise of the world wide web and subsequently eCommerce, our choices were often time tethered to the stores that was within a reasonable physical range or whatever inventory that could be displayed in a catalog. All this changed with the rise of the internet. Suddenly if you were a purveyor of fine wine in the Rhone valley, you could attract buyers from Hong Kong to Pittsburgh. Regardless of your size, through a few clicks of a mouse your products were accessible by anyone with a browser and a dial up modem! Consumers now had access to a treasure trove of products.

Finally the consumers’ expectations have been set by the likes of Amazon. Not only can consumers access a wide swath of products through the eCommerce giant, but they also expect perks such as free shipping, returns, access to long tail products, to name a few.

All this taken together is why consumers are becoming, if not are already, the biggest disruptors within the commerce supply chain. Based on what I am hearing this event season, the vendors and service providers are agreeing with this assertion. The challenge will be how to best offer the solutions and technologies that can allow participants in the commerce supply chain to meet their consumers’ needs. These solution providers must keep in mind their customers’ customers as they design and offer new solutions. How can they empower their customers to be able to better meet the growing expectations and needs of the end customer? No small challenge indeed. As this crazy event has demonstrated, at least most if not all the vendors are reading off the same music sheet.


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Filed under Social media, Supply Chain, Uncategorized

Happy New Year – some wishes for 2015

Once again the inevitable is happening, our journey around the sun has almost come full circle. 2014 was an interesting year – of course for us soccer fans it was extra exciting with a World Cup, but I digress. As we head towards 2015 here are some wishes I have for our supply chains far and wide:


2015 Puzzle Piece Shows New Year's Festivities And Celebrations

Happy 2015 to all!


  • Better and more actionable data: Raise your hand if you are sick of hearing about big data…okay you can all put your hands down. This is not about the continued deluge of data, we all know that we are flush with data and with new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) will only add to this wave of information. What we need to focus on, and achieve for our supply chains is more business data. Business data is the actionable information we can absorb, make a decision with and discard. Many of the CxOs I have spoken to this year, have pointed out that they know the information is out there, the
    Hey look...more "big data"

    Hey look…more “big data”

    issue they have is to identify and focus on the business data that their organizations can better leverage. This is no small task. It is easier to hoard mountains and mountains of data as opposed to be smart about which data to focus on and which pieces of information to lean on. Offerings from the likes of Cisco with their intercloud product provides a layer of intelligence to all that information flowing across our networks. Of course the need to do a better job of filtering and identifying that business information is vital…especially as “big data” only gets bigger. In 2015 let us hope that we become smarter about the types of data we lean on to be better with our supply chains – no easy task.

  • Continued harmonization of execution systems: The need to integrate WMS and TMS seems like a no-brainer, yet remains surprising that in many instances the systems have themselves remained in silos. It is telling that a supply chain vendor such as JDA only acquired a robust WMS solution when they merged with Red Prairie. But as more companies that are in the execution space look to not only add functionality but ensure full integration – even mega vendors like Oracle are working to add functionality such as yard management to their execution suite – one can hope that 2015 sees more of these strategic moves. The value for the end users is to have a faster and deeper visibility into the end to end execution process. For this reason, let us also hope that focused manufacturing service providers such as QAD and Plex also push out from within the factory four walls to include greater services in transportation and warehousing. Being able to monitor my entire execution process is the only way to start to eliminate the blind spots that constantly haunt our supply chains.
  • Smarter evolution of SMAC within all aspects of supply chain: What is SMAC? It isn’t what you talk on the basketball court. SMAC – Social Mobile Analytics Cloud. I look for a greater focus on the first two letters of SMAC for 2015. When it comes to analytics, supply chains have been working on ensuring we add greater layers of analytics and intelligence to our processes. This will only continue to be vital as we add…more data. As for the cloud, it continues to be an area of much debate for supply chains. By some studies, there remains a lot of skepticism when it comes to the cloud. And I understand why. It isn’t because the cloud is not a viable delivery mechanism for the tools and solutions we need to manage our supply chains, rather the business value has not been properly expressed. I am looking at you marketing and sales departments. Too often we lead with the lower total cost of ownership (TCO) or the ability to
    Decision making at the edge - at your finger tips.

    Decision making at the edge – at your finger tips.

    have access to the latest version of the software, rather than discuss why these features of the cloud open up new business models for supply chains. Smart vendors in 2015 will hone in on the business models the cloud empowers – not just lower TCO. But where 2015 holds more promise is with the social and mobile aspects of supply chain. Almost half of supply chain executives agree that social will play a vital role in their business, however less than 20% have any active strategy with social. I expect to see more partnerships such as the one between IBM and Twitter – to bring to the market solutions that these supply chain CxOs can lean on to take advantage of the nuggets that are in social. Finally 2015 will continue to see the importance of mobile in the supply chain. We already have witnessed how tablets and handhelds have impacted the factory floor, logistics, warehousing and within the store. But this is only the beginning. Smarter and more powerful devices will allow us to push decision making and control to the edges of the network. How solution providers tackle this new found power will be integral to how supply chains evolve in 2015.

I don’t think these are too much to ask of our supply chain users and vendors. Next year is an exciting one for new solutions and the continued evolution of existing technologies. But don’t we say that every year??

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. See you on the other side!

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Filed under Current Events, IoT, Social media, Supply Chain, Technology

Facebook adds to empire – final gets their communication platform in Whatsapp

Earlier today Facebook announced a massive acquisition of mobile instant messaging platform Whatsapp. The deal will be for $16billion, of which $4billion will be in cash and the remainder in equity. Regardless of how you structure it, that is a lot of money, wonder how many bitcoins that could have purchased.

From what I have been able to read, most agree, as do I, that Facebook needed to get a stronger footprint in the world of mobile communications. Yes Facebook remains one of the most used mobile apps and the growth continues on the upwards trend. Within that segment, the non – “US & Canada” are showing continued growth, while US & Canada remain steady.

Growth curve outside North America picking up steam

Growth curve outside North America picking up steam

Facebook has tried to get a foothold on the world of IM/SMS type communications on mobile devices. Anyone who is a regular Facebook user knows how they have been constantly pushing their mobile messenger app on users. I will admit I actually finally broke down and downloaded the app, only to delete it after a few days and went back to going through the regular Facebook to leverage the messaging function. Of course for Facebook they realize that not everyone has a Facebook account…gasp….and therefore might be accessible through Facebook messenger. Just like Apple knows that not everyone is on iOS…gasp…and cannot all use iMessenger the same way. For this reason 3rd party messaging platforms like Whatsapp, Viber, Snapchat or old school ones such as AIM and Yahoo! try to be device agnostic and focus just on being communications platforms. Not some uber social media community. Of course the growth shown by Whatsapp doesn’t hurt their attractiveness either!


So it makes perfect sense for Facebook to find in Whatsapp their potential asset in the mobile messenger world. Much like Instagram provided them with their photo-sharing platform. While Facebook has these functions in their existing platform, they just aren’t very good at differentiating them, as they are just drowned out in the overall Facebook environment. Buying Whatsapp gives Facebook a strong asset in the mobile messaging space. It gives them an asset that has done well outside the United States, an area where Facebook mobile enjoys continued upward movement – could be very complimentary in that aspect. Does it admit failure in decoupling Facebook Messenger as a stand alone? Sure. But Facebook doesn’t seem to be afraid to go out and throw around their vast cash resources to shore up a need when their own efforts fall short. Hey, if you have the cash and financial heft, use it!

Of course one has to hope that Facebook treats Whatsapp like it did Instagram, allows it to function independently. If they do so, I think that Whatsapp will continue to grow its user base and messaging position.

Wonder if Snapchat is kicking themselves today…I guess Facebook wasn’t really after the ability to send “mission impossible” type messages but just wanted a messaging platform.

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Filed under Current Events, Social media

McDonalds – crossed a line or being savvy?

The big story that has been on the North America airwaves has been the incredible story of 3 women who disappeared for years had finally been found. Kidnapped and held hostage for a combined 30 years. News is trickling out to the despicable conditions these women were forced to endure. A tragedy for the victims, we must not forget that. Because of this reality, there are a lot of mixed reactions to McDonald’s reaction to getting a plug from the now famous eye witness interview. See below…

Right off the bat…around 9 seconds in…he mentions he was eating his McDonalds when everything started. The video has gone viral and Mr Ramsey has been doing the speaking tour. Ah the beauty of watching someone’s 15 minutes of fame. Even on his interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, McDonalds comes up again – click here for video. In reaction to all this free advertising, the folks at the golden arches decided to go to social media to chime in.

McDonalds hails their new spokesperson

McDonalds hails their new spokesperson

Was this appropriate or taking advantage of a terrible situation? There has been much discussion as to whether or not McDonalds crossed a line. Unfortunately when it comes to communications and public relations, any event or news is seen as an opportunity to push one’s message. While the saying – there is no such thing as bad publicity – might have been true decades ago, when the message could be “controlled,” it has some limits in the current communications environment. Click here for a good piece on this axiom. For McDonalds the situation is not about anything they have done or been part of, but they are being involved in the story by a witness. So should they be “taking advantage” of this? I say…yes.

Maybe their tweet should not have included “we’ll be in touch” that gives the impression they are thinking of how to exploit Mr Ramsey for promotional needs. But the fact they tweeted about this and mentioned Mr Ramsey is to be expected. Why not? They are capturing some of the discussions and grabbing some exposure. Of course, and maybe they will, rather than insinuate some “reward” for Mr Ramsey, why not use this opportunity to call attention to domestic violence or violence against women. Make a donation, public or quietly to some charity. Could this also be seen as exploiting a situation for publicity? Sure. But at least it would also be doing some good.

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Filed under Current Events, Marketing, Social media

Be good to your customers…especially in the world of social media

There is a story about Lego responding to a client’s letter that has gone viral. The basic premise – a Lego fan builds a set, against his father’s wishes he takes the completed set out and ends up losing a mini-figure. His father suggests he writes to Lego, which he does, and Lego responds by sending him a replacement as well as extra Legos. Great story. And good marketing buzz for Lego. Not only did they make an even bigger fan of the 7 year old, but they got a tremendous buzz about their actions – outlets from Huffington Post to Yahoo! wrote about the story.

Blue Ninja!

Be the ninja of good customer care

So what is the moral of the story? Take care of you customers…d’uh. Okay that is the obvious. But what this really shows is the greater importance good customer care takes with the rise of social media. Before blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other social outlets, the above story might have been picked up by a local newspaper reporter as filler. Good story, but buried in the business section of the Sunday edition. With social there is long tail as well as a wider reach. The originally story came out earlier this year, I just read about it and I am now blogging about it. Long tail.

Of course this sword can cut both ways. Have a bad customer care story and that could hang around your neck for much longer than it took to resolve the issue. Or if your fried chicken actually seems to be a brain or a kidney- aka what happened with KFC – click here, but be forewarned it isn’t too “appetizing” to view. Same holds true for Dell that dealt with huge headaches, both in terms of recall as well as image when one of their laptop batteries caught on fire and was videoed and spread like…ahem…wildfire on the web. This was the catalyst for Dell placing more emphasis on social listening.

These examples demonstrate the importance of being much more in tune with customer service and listening to what your customers are saying, and doing. Social media has given everyone a megaphone. Regardless of how loud or quiet that megaphone is, it is out there. End of the day customers will always vote with their wallets, but now they have another way to vote – with social media. One could argue that when it was only with a wallet, you could always expect to find another “sucker” for your products. The reality was the wallet voting is buried in the aggregate. Social media makes the vote personal and pointed. Take a cue from Lego and always treat your customer well – provide outrageous service and it will come back to you in spades. And take another cue from Dell – make social media key to your customer listening and service.

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Filed under Consumer Product Goods, Current Events, Customer Service, Social media

Groupons fall from the mountain top

Andrew Mason, the Groupon CEO, was let go this week due to continued poor performances for the company as well as a stock price that remains in the tank. How things change. One has to wonder, and obviously hind site is 20/20, how different things would be for Mason had he accepted the $6billion offer from Google. Rebuffing the search giant just stirred that hornet’s nest.groupon_logo

What is interesting to me is the following – Groupon never truly defined what they were. A technology company? A glorified email list? A social networking firm? A big coupon? Even Mason seemed to agree that they were not clear as to what they were. At the core, every company needs to understand what they are. Google is a search company, Amazon is eCommerce, ATT a communications player, GM a car company, Apple a consumer technology firm and so on. Define who you are and what you want to be when you grow up. Otherwise you are going to pull yourself in directions you do not and cannot afford to head in…A difficult discipline, no doubt, but one that has to be adhered to.

Of course it does not help that Groupon created and was competing in a space that had very low barriers to entry – creating by some accounts 500 copy cat companies. However that is not the only reason for where Groupon has fallen to.

Mason will join a long list of entrepreneur/CEOs who watched their idea start from nothing, rise to outrageous heights and then crash when expectations (or the public market) could not be satisfied.

Again easy to say now, but sometimes as Steve Miller would say – Go on take the money and run.

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Filed under Coupon, Current Events, Social media