Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Easier Way to Connect With Your Customers on Foursquare

In just the past few weeks, Foursquare released it's Foursquare for Business app (if you don't know what Foursquare is, read Jeff's post from 2010).  The app allows business owners to share information with their customers and view analytics right from their smartphone.

This new app seems to be a nice and quick way to connect with your customers across multiple platforms.  From the app, the business owner/manager can create a Foursquare update and also cross-post it to Facebook and Twitter.  

Another useful feature of the Foursquare for Business app is the ability to view check-ins.  In the past, you could only view check-ins from the past 3 hours, but now you can see check-ins from the entire day. You can also easily view who your top customers are.

Also, the app will allow the manager to drive traffic to their store by posting Foursquare specials.  For example, a coffee shop manager could quickly post a picture of a latte with a caption "the next ten customers who check-in on Foursquare will get a free latte with the purchase of a muffin."  

As an ag business owner, have you used Foursquare?  If yes, how have customers responded to your Foursquare presence?  Do you think this new app will allow you to manage your Foursquare presence more effectively?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Exploring Demographic Groups-- Asian-Americans

From 2000 to 2012, the Asian-American population has jumped 51% to 18.2 million people (and is expected to rise another 13% by 2017).  The article "Asian-Americans: Fast Growth, Deep Pockets" reports that Asian-Americans also on average have "higher household incomes (28% above the U.S. median), educational achievement (50% of Asian-Americans 25 and older graduated college vs. 28% of this age group nationwide), and frequent living in nuclear households of 3.1 people vs. the 2.6 U.S. average." 

So what do these figures mean?  Asian-Americans have a large buying power and this demographic group shouldn't be overlooked.  How big?  As reported by Nielson in their "State of the Asian-American Consumer" report, their buying power is $718 billion!

How should you market your products to Asian-Americans?  As always, DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Here are some interesting facts and tips to help you get started:

1.  English is not the predominant language spoken in most Asian-American homes (77% speak a language other than English).  Explore the possibility of advertising in an Asian language.  

2.  70% of Asian-Americans own a smartphone as compared to 55% of all Americans.  Explore social media as an advertising tool.  Also, optimize your website for mobile viewing.

3.  Nielsen reports that Asian-Americans spend more time online (80 hours/month) than any other demographic group.  Make sure your website is eye-catching and easy to use.  Also, try to gain customers through the development of an interesting newsletter.

4.  When grocery shopping, Asian-Americans are less likely to plan their purchases ahead of time as compared to non-Hispanic whites.  In-store atmosphere (including product variety, signage/displays, and promos) is most appealing.  Include a variety of products in your store that appeal to Asian-Americans with signage to steer them to these items.

Take the time to explore different demographic groups and how they shop.  Is your product lineup and/or store appealing to different types of people?  If not, how can you improve your image to different shoppers? Have you tried marketing specifically to one type of demographic group?  If so, what did you do and how did your marketing campaign pay off?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Selling Valentine's Day Items--Who is Buying and How Much are They Spending?

Good news for retailers selling Valentine's gifts-- sales are expected to increase this year over last (as per a Valentine's spending survey conducted by BIGinsight), but unfortunately not by much.  Last year's spending averaged $126.03 per person while this year's projection is to only be $130.97, which is about $18.6 billion in the USA for consumers 18 years and up.

This modest increase can make us assume that consumers are being cautious with their spending this Valentine's Day.  What does that mean for ag retailers?  Consumers will probably be more price conscious when picking out their gifts whether it's flowers, candies, dinner, etc.  To lure customers in, you may want to explore special sales or deals.  If you don't want to discount your current selection, you could try offering a special package that is lower in price than your normal selection without lowering your profit margins.  For example, a chocolatier with an average total production cost of $0.50/ piece of chocolate may offer a 24 piece box of chocolates for $50 as their cheapest item.  This may be out of the price range for many consumers, but the chocolatier could gain some customers by offering a 6 piece box for $15 (and would still be making a similar profit per piece).

Since price and value will be important to consumers this year, you can expect comparison shopping to be very important.  In the BIGinsight survey, 39.3% of respondents will be shopping at discount stores, 33.2% at department stores, 26.3% will be buying gifts via online shopping, 22.9% at specialty stores, 19.6% at floral shops, 11.2% at jewelry stores, 7.5% at specialty clothing stores, and 2.6% via catalogs.

While the most money is not surprising going to be spent on a significant other ($73.75), other loved ones will be getting gifts too.  Twenty percent of Americans are projected to buy Valentine's gifts for their pets, with a total spending projection of $815 million!  Even if you aren't selling pet products currently, you might want to explore this market.  A bakery selling human goodies could add some special Valentine dog treats to their menu or a wool shop could offer heart-covered doggy sweaters.  Be creative!

The key take-away from this post is that even though consumers are being price and value conscious, it doesn't mean they aren't spending this Valentine's Day!  Explore the possibility of adding lower cost items (like the smaller chocolate box mentioned above) without sacrificing your profit margins.

Read more about Valentine's spending at (National Retail Federation).

As an ag entrepreneur, how do you prepare for Valentine's Day?  Do you offer special promotions?  What items beyond chocolates and flowers are customers looking for?