Jul 03

IN THE NEWS: The effects of “showrooming”

Photo Credit: Osde8info (flickr.com)

I’m definitely guilty of showrooming. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into a store, checked out the price of a product, nearly keel over after seeing the price tag, then whip out my smart phone to buy it cheaper online.

Showrooming has become common practice to many consumers. Showrooming occurs when consumers check out a product at a brick-and-mortar store, then buy it online for a cheaper price, sometimes right on the spot using their phone. This has been a big boon for online retailers. Obviously, it is significantly hurting some brick-and-mortar stores. Best Buy is hurting from the effects of showrooming and has been seeing declining sales. Attributing some of its losses to the impact of showrooming, Best Buy has been trying to curtail the practice.

Best Buy is not the only one that’s trying to combat showrooming. Stores such as Target have asked vendors for products not found online. Price matching is another tactic. In extreme cases, stores have installed lasers that break up handheld scanning apps from reading.

How else can you combat the effects of showrooming? Michael Fox, president of M&M Paper says that it’s good customer service and staff training.

“Human interaction will always prevail over ordering online,” he says, adding that salespeople should point out online shipping fees and the hassles buyers often face on long-distance returns or exchanges that they wouldn’t face in the store.

35% of respondents engage in showrooming. 72% of those respondents found a better price online. But this is not the end for brick-and-mortar stores. If they play it smart, they can reduce the effects of showrooming. How else do you think stores can combat showrooming? Have you noticed this practice in your own store?

Jul 02

IN THE NEWS: Urban versus suburban growth.

Photo Credit: JoshuaDavisPhotography (flickr.com)

City life isn’t for everyone, with the insane traffic, light pollution and constant noise that’s so characteristic of big cities. Some people do enjoy it though. New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that population growth in urban areas is outpacing suburban areas for the first time in nearly a century.

Metros such as New Orleans, Atlanta and D.C. saw urban populations grow faster than the suburban populations. New Orleans saw the biggest rebound in city growth relative to suburbs, despite a period of stalled population growth due to Hurricane Katrina. Some cities, such as Baltimore and Detroit still have higher suburban growth rates. St. Louis, MO saw population loss by more than 1,000.

According to the Associated Press:

Driving the resurgence are young adults, who are delaying careers, marriage and having children amid persistently high unemployment. Burdened with college debt or toiling in temporary, lower-wage positions, they are spurning homeownership in the suburbs for shorter-term, no-strings-attached apartment living, public transit and proximity to potential jobs in larger cities … Some sociologists are calling them “generation rent.”

This could be a great opportunity for urban leaders. What do you think?

Jun 29

IN THE NEWS: How much more time do single people spend on personal care than married couples?

Photo Credit: Themacgirl (flickr.com)

Sometimes, it’s just seems inconvenient being single. Participating in the “buy one get one free” offers can be a hassle because who gets two Frappuccinos at once for themselves? And sitting by yourself at a two or four person table is just awkward.

However, according to the Labor Department’s American Time Use Survey, single people have more time for personal care, sleeping and leisure activities than married people. The report boiled it down to about one hour and 16 minutes more time.

The survey found that:

  • Married people spend 40 minutes more doing chores than single people
  • Married people spend 37 minutes more at work than single people
  • Married people spend 30 minutes more caring for children than single people
  • Married people spend 26 minutes less on personal care and sleeping
  • Married people spend 50 minutes less on sports and activities

Looking at financial expenses, single people spend more money on clothes and fitness. And of course adding children to the equation increases spending by thousands of dollars. A couple with children will spend almost three times more on average than a couple without children. Being married does have its financial benefits though. Married couples get some relief on federal and Social Security taxes due to the lower tax rates associated with joint filing.

Do you think the results of this survey accurately apply to what you personally perceive about the lives of single and married people? Let us know!

Jun 22

IN THE NEWS: Who is most influential on Facebook?

Photo Credit: Birgerking (flickr.com)

We all have those friends on Facebook who are constantly sending requests or invites to Facebook apps and games. No matter how many times we decline, they continue to bombard us with requests. So then we defriend them. Facebook is a place where some friendships go to die..

But this begs the question, who is most influential on Facebook? Who do we listen to the most and who do we ignore? Who’s most susceptible to influence on social media? Researchers at NYU’s business school conducted a study of influence on Facebook, which was recently published by the journal Science. The study tracked how successful people were in convincing others to use a Facebook app that allows users to share information about the film industry. The relative influence of different groups (age, gender, relationship status) was compared.

These are some of the trends they discovered:

  • Men are 49% more influential than women on social media
  • Single people are 113% more influential than those whose relationship status says “In A Relationship”
  • Married people are more influential than both single people and those in a relationship
  • Those who listed their relationship status as “It’s Complicated” are least influential as well as most susceptible to influence

What does this mean for marketers? Perhaps it will pay off for marketers if they specifically target a group with certain characteristics (in this case, married men). However, for it to pay off, the influential people must be driven to spread the word to people who are susceptible to influence. While the results cannot be generalized, the study can shed light on WOM on social networks and how awareness of products/services spreads within someone’s group of friends.

Jun 21

IN THE NEWS: Are we losing faith in the quality of our public schools?

Photo Credit: Thomas Favre-Bulle (flickr.com)

While I don’t exactly look fondly back on the grade school days of vocabulary tests, algebra homework and last minute cramming, I can still confidently say that I thought my public school education was pretty rock solid. However, these days, this is not the case anymore.

A recent Gallup poll found that confidence in U.S. public schools has declined to its lowest point in nearly four decades. 30% of respondents said that they had little to no confidence in public schools. 40% had some confidence while 29% had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence. This percentage was compared to the responses gathered in 1973 in which 58% reported having strong confidence in the education system.

Apparently, public education was not the only thing that scored low in public confidence. Nowadays, the public does not have a positive outlook on a variety of U.S. institutions. Organized religion, banks and TV news were at record lows in public confidence as well. Congress ranked last with 13% confidence.

Why do you think confidence in U.S. institutions are at an all time low? What are the implications? Let us know what you think!


Jun 20

IN THE NEWS: For online shoppers, what matters more: convenience or free shipping?

Photo credit: Creative Tools (flickr.com)

Something that drives me up the wall is when I’m online shopping and go to click on my virtual shopping cart to check out and notice that the shipping cost actually totals MORE than the cost of the item. Really? Come on.

For online shoppers, what are some of the most important aspects that factor into whether or not they follow through with a purchase? According to a survey conducted by comScore, ease of checkout and product variety are still more important than issues pertaining to shipping. However, shipping still matters greatly to customers.

When the respondents were asked what aspect of the shopping process could be improved by online retailers, the top response was free or discounted shipping. 58% of respondents listed this as their top concern.

42% of respondents wanted improvements on ease of returns/exchanges and 38% wanted better online tracking ability. 28% of respondents would like more flexibility with delivery options and 28% wanted more shipping options.

High shipping costs was also the main reason why shoppers would abandon a cart before completing a purchase. 57% of respondents said that they add items to their shopping cart to figure out what the total cost would be with shipping included. This is something I am all too familiar with as well.

Other than high shipping costs, other reasons why a customer would abandon a cart are due to comparison shopping, long/confusing checkout processes, too much personal information required during checkout, or simply because the customer changed his/her mind.

To build customer loyalty and increase customer satisfaction – as well as avoid shopping cart abandonment – here are some tips (you can view these tips as a infographic too):

  • Include thumbnails of products in the shopping cart so customers know they’re buying the right item
  • Make changing details (such as on shipping address, removing items) on the checkout page easy
  • Include a progress indicator (what stage of the checkout process the customer is currently at)
  • If buyers abandon cart, let them know the items will be stored for later

Jun 19

IN THE NEWS: Do people conduct online searches in more than one language?

Photo Credit: Guttorm Flataba (flickr.com)

Like many other second generation Asian Americans who are born and raised in the states, I know enough Mandarin Chinese to converse with my relatives or travel around China. However, reading traditional Chinese characters is not exactly my strong suit. And because they speak so rapidly (and dramatically?) I honestly cannot understand a single word actors say on those Chinese soap operas.

I only conduct online searches in English. But according to results from a global survey conducted by digital marketing agency Greenlight, 76% of people search for information in more than one language.

The survey asked 500 participants about their interactions and usage of search engines, social networks and online advertising. The participants had diverse backgrounds, ranging from students to lawyers to medical staff. The objective of the research was to understand how consumers engage with marketers today.

Belgium, Italy and Spain came out on top with the number of respondents who searched in more than one language. Italy and Spain were especially surprising because these countries have a relatively homogenized language. Belgium was not as surprising because it has more than one official language.

Taking SEO into consideration, international brands and organizations should look into establishing multiple language sites for their business. However, PR Newswire states that “This of course runs counter to traditional SEO logic which states that duplicate content is bad – which it is – so this would have to be undertaken with some caution, ensuring that all content is properly localised so that search engines know that one version is intended for region A, the other for region B.”

An article on Search Engine Watch said that for brands to be truly global and effective with social media, namely Twitter, they should be tweeting across multiple languages. 9 out of 10 European internet users prefer browsing in their own language. Therefore, if you want to engage consumers in other countries, you need to converse with them in a language they’re familiar and comfortable with. Although English is spoken in many different countries, it does not mean it is the preferred language.

The article gives five tips for companies who wish to create multilingual Twitter accounts:

  1. Have separate feeds/follows
  2. Integrate with a translation service
  3. Don’t forget LOCAL content (the old adaptation-standardization debate)
  4. Post regularly
  5. Interact with followers

Do you online search in more than one language? We’d like to know! Leave a comment here or direct message us on Twitter (@the_RPG).

Jun 18

IN THE NEWS: “Affluent Males” segment shop online more than ever before.

Photo Credit: Shindoverse (flickr.com)

It’s true. Men shop just as much as women, but just not in the same way. It’s not very common to see a group of guys crowding around each other in the dressing rooms, exclaiming how fabulous they look in an outfit. However, it’s not surprising to see men shopping online via an electronic device.

According to a report released by global digital performance agency iProspect, the “Affluent Males” consumer segment are shopping online and spending more than ever before. The report describes the preferences, behaviors and attitudes of affluent males toward online advertising. 40% of affluent males shop online twice a week. The luxury menswear industry has been doing well, growing 14% a year.

This is the typical affluent male:

  • Age 18+
  • Has an income of $100,000+
  • Connected to his PC at least 91% of the day
  • Connected to his smartphone around 77% of the day
  • Loves luxury brands such as Rolex, BMW, Mercedes-Benz
  • Searches online for travel, clothing, cars, sports

“The old adage that men hate to shop is being upended by the digital experience. Not only are affluent men shopping online more, but this demographic is doing extensive research, shopping and then purchasing online, which provides advertisers with multiple touch points to reach him. Understanding the habits of the high-end consumer allows iProspect to help our clients develop well-integrated digital campaigns that connect with this audience and deliver results,” said Robert Murray, global chief executive officer, iProspect.

This shift in luxury spending means more opportunities for luxury brands to target their advertising toward this segment. It can create opportunities to non-luxury items as well, as the effect trickles down to these brands. This segment also expects to be able to shop and research across all digital platforms. The majority of purchases are made on the computer; however, more research on brands and products is done via mobile phone. In addition, if he owns a tablet, he’s 32% more likely to buy something online.

When comparing the shopping habits of men and women in general, it has been found that men are more comfortable buying big ticket items than women are. Men’s big ticket items average around $67.82 compared to the average cost of women’s purchases at $51.84. Also, it takes women more time to decide whether or not to purchase an item (average of 14 minutes) than men do (average of 10 minutes).

Jun 14

IN THE NEWS: Does Emotional Intelligence Make You a Sucker?

Photo Credit: Maksoff (Flickr.com)

I was listening to an episode of The Nerdist podcast the other day with guest Penn Jillette (the big loud guy from the magician duo, Penn & Teller), and I was fascinated to hear Penn suggest that when you need a doctor or a lawyer to really fight for you, he believes it’s best to find one who’s a sociopath, because that person is going to focus on the job at hand without getting squeamish about the details.

A sociopath (or psychopath; the terms are interchangeable) is someone who lacks empathy for other human beings, a condition that’s thought to exist in every 1 out of 100 people in the world. Sociopaths are typically skilled liars who think very little of manipulating other human beings, and they tend to show up in high proportions in both prisons and corporate executive levels. (If you’re interested in learning more about that, I’d suggest reading Jon Ronson’s fascinating book, The Psychopath Test, or listening to the This American Life episode of the same name.)

I bring all of this up because a recent study from the journal Legal and Criminal Psychology has found that those with a high level of emotional intelligence (a controversial measure of one’s ability to control the emotions of oneself or others) are more easily fooled by deceptive claims.

The study itself was conducted by having 116 participants view a sample of 20 videos where people were pleading for the safe return of family members. Half of these videos featured people who were telling the truth, and half of these videos featured people who were actually responsible for the disappearance or murder of the loved one. The participants were aware that some of the videos were false and were supposed to judge each plea by examining cues and reporting their emotional reaction.

The study concludes that those with a higher level of EI may make poor decisions on the basis of their perceptions of emotions, and the discussion of the findings of the study suggest it’s due to those with high ability to perceive and express emotion (a component of EI) having overconfidence in their ability to read things, but it may also be due to their levels of sympathy and empathy with other humans.

What this suggests to me is that those who are on the empathetic end of the scale are most likely to be putty in the hands of those who are on the sociopathic end of the scale. Which means that I had better watch out, since I scored high on this test, and I am pretty sure I’ve been manipulated by sociopaths before. That puts a lot of things in perspective…

Jun 12

IN THE NEWS: Does Coffee Curb Depression?


Photo Credit: Amanda28192 (Flickr.com)

A study published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who drink two to four caffeinated cups of coffee a day are significantly less likely to develop depression – an interesting statistic, given that women are twice as likely to encounter depression as men. What’s more, the likelihood to be at a lower level of risk for depression increases as more coffee is consumed – suggesting that the caffeine content in coffee may have some effect on brain chemistry. (Caffeine has also been linked to lower risk levels for Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and suicide).

So, if you drink coffee, you’re likely to be happier, right?

Well, not quite. While the findings of this study are interesting and the methodology is fairly sound (the data comes from a long-running, longitudinal Nurses’ Health Study with around 50,000 women in which the average age of participants in the most recent draw was 63), the association that’s been found is based on correlation, not causation. The finding is that as coffee consumption increases, depression levels decrease, and vice versa. But correlations often occur in data sets in a spurious manner (where two unrelated variables vary together), and that means that there needs to be a stronger theoretical basis to draw a strong conclusion.

It’s important to keep in mind, after all, that other variables could be at play here. For example, coffee could be a beverage preferred by those who are not depressed because of the influence of some other group of variables. The depressed state could cause coffee to taste too bitter to some individuals, causing them to drink less of it. Depressed people could have a biologically-driven aversion to stimulants and favor depressants (such as alcohol) or carbohydrates instead. And so on down the line.

One theory put forth in the WebMD article about this study is that caffeine is thought to elevate levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, two of the chemicals the brain uses to make a person feel happier and less stressed. This may lead to lower levels of depression. The only way this hypothesis can be confirmed, however, is for an experimental study to be conducted focused specifically on establishing this causation.

One way this could be conducted would be a study that directly studies the effects of increasing caffeine on brain chemistry related to depression. This would likely require some sort of neuroscientific research (such as the use of an fMRI) and would be limited to understanding the direct impact of caffeine on brain scans.

Another could determine the direct effects of increasing levels of caffeine on a group of women who are depressed, a group of women not prone to depression or elation, a group of women who are elated, and a control group of randomly-selected women. In each group, there would be three subgroups: those who consume no caffeine, those who consume 1-3 servings of caffeine daily, and those who consume 4 or more servings of caffeine daily. The data would make a strong argument for whether or not the hypothesis should be accepted.

Proper experimental design is a lot more difficult than simply searching for correlations, but it helps to ensure that when you hear a claim like “Coffee can help curb depression!” that the basis is derived from observed cause and effect and not just some connections in a data set.

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