Take a look at the line outside of the store. It's 102 degrees at 5:49pm in Glendale, AZ. And they're standing outside, waiting to get into a VIP event where they can save $30. How many of your customers would stand outside in 102 degree heat at 5:49pm ...


Kevin Hillstrom: MineThatData - 5 new articles


Take a look at the line outside of the store.

It's 102 degrees at 5:49pm in Glendale, AZ. And they're standing outside, waiting to get into a VIP event where they can save $30.

How many of your customers would stand outside in 102 degree heat at 5:49pm on a Sunday evening in Late Summer ... to support an event you hosted?

We went in the wrong direction.

We invested our energy learning how to target a customer (and didn't do a good job) ... with CRM and then "Social CRM" and then "Personalization" and then "Engagement" and then "Content" followed by "Relevancy" we built a series of skills ... and we spent the better part of a decade honing these skills.

One problem.

We spent almost no time on creating events that people would spend time standing in line for in 102 degree heat at 5:49pm on a Sunday night in Late Summer.

Be honest - look at your job ... how much time do you spend on technical skills ... and how much time do you spend creating events that cause people to stand outside on a 102 degree Sunday evening in Late Summer?


Stranger Things Popup Store

When a niche television show on Netflix has a popup store in Chicago, something is wrong with our approach to business.

Here's a link to the popup store ... which will be open through the end of September (click here).

It's another example of a low-cost / no-cost customer acquisition strategy.

We cannot keep blaming Executives for not being creative - we have to convince Executives why creativity is necessary. If our "story" is boring and numbers-based and uninspiring, well, how can we blame the Executive for going to the Google / Facebook / Co-Ops again and again and again?

P.S.: Here's the other part of the story. We've de-emphasized creative teams to the point where they aren't creative teams, they're implementation teams. They implement imagery and copy ... they aren't doing anything creative. We got to this outcome when we demanded that every single aspect of creative has to pay for itself. We spent the past decade driving creative folks out of the business, and as a result there aren't any creative ideas, and then that leads to tepid performance.

P.P.S: What would your popup store look like? Could you sketch it out? What would the 10-20 featured products be? How would you staff it? How much would you have to sell to generate a profit? What geography would make the most sense ... urban vs. suburban vs. rural ... West Coast or East Coast or Midwest or Southeast or Somewhere Else (maybe in the upside down - yes, that's a Stranger Things reference)? Fashion mall or strip mall? Why not put together a business plan for your popup store and present it to somebody and see what happens? What's the worst thing that could happen - somebody says no to you? You've survived that one before, right?

P.P.P.S: We can make a page SEO friendly ... but the page doesn't have compelling product / copy / imagery. So when you put together your popup store business plan, make sure you have a compelling reason for the customer to stick around after you've created the awareness to get the customer to your website.


I Get Emails I Should Not Get!!

I have no idea what is going on with "some" vendors - but this summer, vendors are sending me emails (by mistake) THAT I SIMPLY SHOULD NOT SEE!

Here's how this works:
  • Email Should Be Delivered To KEVINSMITH@VENDOR.COM.
  • Instead the sender types KEV and my email address comes up and they plug my email address in by mistake.
  • Email is delivered to me and not to the vendor employee who should receive it.
And then I get to see stuff THAT I SIMPLY SHOULD NOT SEE.

I wouldn't bring this up ... BUT IT KEEPS HAPPENING.

And if your vendor does not have the discipline to audit an email address, how can you have confidence that your vendor can audit the actual work they're doing for you?

I get to see how your vendor is ripping you off.

I get to see the criticisms your vendor lobs at you, behind your back, to your vendor partner co-workers.

Worst of all - I get to see some of the innovations you are implementing, innovations you don't want me (or anybody else) to know about.

I'm begging you, the reader, to hold your vendors accountable. Your vendors are, in so many cases, mocking you behind your back (and I'm sure you do the same to some of your vendor partners).

Two years ago, I wrote a booklet called "Hillstrom's Vendor Academy" ... the booklet outlined a process I used at Nordstrom to score and evaluate vendors, and then hold vendors accountable (click here). In the two months after the release, I sold fewer than 10 booklets. FEWER THAN 10!!! I'll sell 10 booklets a day of new releases for a fair amount of time. It told me that you, the reader, do not care about holding your vendor partners accountable.

Given the emails I'm getting (by mistake) from your vendor partners, it is time for you to care.

What are you going to do about this issue?


10 Questions

Question #1: You are not allowed to acquire a new customer next year from Google, Facebook, Retargeting, or if you are cataloger any of the catalog co-ops. Describe what your strategy is?

Question #2: Your business lost 8% of sales last year. Your analysis shows that Merchandise Productivity fell by 10%. Describe how you address this issue with your Merchandising Team, a group of individuals who believe you are Marketing the brand to the "wrong customer"?

Question #3: You do not execute an email campaign for an entire month via an A/B test. You learn that sales are identical in the no-mail group as in the mail group. Describe how you respond to the results of your test?

Question #4: You learn that 33% of last year's customers purchase again next year, and the best observed metric since 1999 is 37%. Describe how much of your resources you allocate to customer acquisition efforts next year?

Question #5: You measure that 30% of last year's retail buyers will purchase online next year. Meanwhile, just 15% of last year's online buyers will purchase in a store next year. What tactics do you use to protect sales volume in stores, or do you just close stores and continue paying debt on the stores you close?

Question #6: You learn that you improved your conversion rate online from 4% to 4.2%, but sales did not change - you simply reduced the number of visits required for a customer to purchase something. You spent $100,000 to improve conversion rates but did not increase sales. How do you explain your performance to Management?

Question #7: A person with no experience at email marketing whatsoever is promoted ahead of you, and is now responsible for email marketing. Describe your approach for working with this individual?

Question #8: You A/B test and learn that you can increase sales by 18% by personalizing your website and email campaigns. Your Creative Director tells you that "it is important to provide a consistent brand experience across channels, and personalization does not allow for a consistent brand experience". How do you respond to this comment?

Question #9: Every vendor tied to the paper industry tells you that catalog marketing works, even if your customer is 29 years old and shops almost exclusively via mobile. How do you respond to the vendor community when they take you out to lunch to encourage you to embark on a catalog marketing program?

Question #10: Your EVP of Marketing left the company to "pursue other opportunities and spend more time with family." Alright. This is the third EVP of Marketing to leave the company in five years. Describe why you would or would not apply for this position?


An Absolute Must Read

You have no choice but to read this article right now, courtesy of Brian.

Click Here ... I'll Wait For You.

Ok, you're back. Good!

What did you think?

Remember last year when I gave a talk in the Czech Republic and my thesis was that all of retail / e-commerce / catalog marketing was trending toward Sports? In other words, entertainment and the ecosystem around entertainment would come to commerce ... as part of a necessary evolution of shopping.
Don't believe me?

Who is Shop.org featuring in a few weeks?
  • Kobe Bryant.
  • Tyra Banks.
Neither individual will share best practices for email subject lines or non-branded paid search terms. They are there for one reason and one reason only ... to entertain you. And you'll spend the profit generated by 50 customers to attend and be entertained. You'll come back to the office and your boss will say "What did you learn?" and you'll regale your team with the myriad ways that Kobe Bryant inspired you to be great.

Remember that talk I gave in the Czech Republic last year? Evening DJs and a festive environment and food & beverage ... an entertaining environment ... one that caused 1,500 seats to sell out in eight minutes ... EIGHT minutes!

So back to the article. The Mall of America was criticized for their approach 25 years ago ... they ignore the moribund pundits who demand that you do things their way so that they get paid ... and now with 5,000+ store closures THIS YEAR ALONE the Mall of America is thriving. Did you read how they HUSTLE ... did you read about how hard they work? More annual visitors than DisneyWorld?

Your future is low-cost / no-cost customer acquisition.

You'll accomplish this not by paying Facebook another $100,000, but by hustling, by entertaining your customers. Fuse those concepts with great merchandise and fair prices, and you've got something.

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