Staying Up to Speed on the Social Media Scene

Social customer care is critical to successful customer relationship management strategies. That means you need to be up to speed on the social media scene and who goes where for what.

Social customer care is critical to successful customer relationship management strategies. That means you need to be up to speed on the social media scene and who goes where for what.

Like other media, social media’s appeal is stratified by age groups. Millennials are more prone to engage with brands while Baby Boomers look for deals. Millennials dominate on Instagram and Snapchat, while Gen Xers and Boomers flock to Facebook.

These and other differences are significant for social media marketing strategies. They point to where to direct and how to shape marketing content.

Sprout Social’s Q1 2017 report on “the social generation” includes observations such as:

  • Seven in 10 Gen Xers will likely purchase something from a brand they follow on social media;
  • 30 percent of Millennials engage with a brand on social media at least once a month; and
  • 60 percent of Baby Boomers search social media for promotions.

One of the most basic, but useful Sprout Social findings is that Facebook remains the big elephant in the social media space. It is the social media preference for 65 percent of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers and 35 percent of Millennials. But Millennials spread around their attention. More than 20 percent prefer Instagram, a slightly smaller percentage prefer Snapchat and about 15 percent prefer YouTube.

Generation Xers are the largest age cohort using Pinterest and Baby Boomers top all users on Google+. Next to Facebook, the social media platform will the most cross-generational appeal is YouTube.

The key takeaway is that social media marketing content must be tailored to age group demographics and platform characteristics.

The Sprout Social report also offers clues for social media strategy. Seeking followers and engaging them works best with Millennials and Gen Xers, but not much with Boomers. When Boomers do follow a brand, they are more likely to observe, not engage until they spot a special deal.

Each generation has a slightly different impulse to unfollow a brand. Gen Xers are much more likely to unfollow a brand that says something offensive or in opposition to their personal beliefs. Millennials unfollow because of a bad experience or annoying social marketing. Baby Boomers opt out because of what they view as spam.

Stakes are high for social customer care. Positive interactions with a brand promote higher sales – about 14 percent higher across all age groups. As you might expect, the group with the most upside following a positive social interaction are Millennials.

Perceptions of the social competency of different business sectors varies by age groups. Gen Xers view media and entertainment as the best at social customer care. Boomers give the nod to retailers. Millennials are mostly focused on data showing only one in 10 social media messages to brands ever get a response. 

Finding the Balance Between Choice and Satisfaction

Choice is good, but too much choice can create consumer anxiety and frustration that leads to less sales, not more. Market research can help find the optimum level of choice that satisfies your consumers.

Choice is good, but too much choice can create consumer anxiety and frustration that leads to less sales, not more. Market research can help find the optimum level of choice that satisfies your consumers.

Could offering too much choice lead to fewer sales? Apparently, yes.

One marketer wrote a blog about his frustration encountering a gelato stand with more than 100 flavors. He paced in front the glass counters assessing the assorted choices until, in a fit of frustration, he left without trying or buying anything.

A kissmetrics blog cited a Columbia University study of jam samples. More people stopped when they were more offerings, but more people bought jam when fewer choices were on the table.

How can that be? Isn’t consumerism all about choice? Yes, and no. Choices please consumers, but don’t always satisfy them. Finding the balance, which requires fine-tuned market research, is key to understanding how to make choice satisfying, not confounding..

Some analysts believe too much choice can lead to consumer confusion and stress. Some retailers agree and have begun to limit the amount of choice on their shelves. For example, one retailer reduced 224 air fresheners to just 12, so consumers could see the entire range without packing up and down the aisle.

Actually, the idea of shrinking choices isn’t avant-garde. It is based on psychological studies that suggest consumer choice doesn’t operate independently of consumer satisfaction. If too many choices create anxiety, customer satisfaction is challenged. Sales suffer.

"Choice is good for us, but its relationship to satisfaction appears to be more complicated than we had assumed,” Barry Schwartz wrote in 2004 in a piece appearing in Harvard Business Review. "There is diminishing marginal utility in having alternatives; each new option subtracts a little from the feeling of well-being, until the marginal benefits of added choice level off.”

"What’s more,” Schwartz adds, "psychologists and business academics alike have largely ignored another outcome of choice: More of it requires increased time and effort and can lead to anxiety, regret, excessively high expectations and self-blame if the choices don’t work out. When the number of available options is small, these costs are negligible, but the costs grow with the number of options. Eventually, each new option makes us feel worse off than we did before.”

This suggests that marketing strategies based solely on delivering choice may fail to achieve their promise.

"Choice can no longer be used to justify a marketing strategy in and of itself,” says Schwartz. "More isn’t always better, either for the customer or for the retailer. Discovering how much assortment is warranted is a considerable empirical challenge. But companies that get the balance right will be amply rewarded.”

Market research is one way to get inside a consumer’s head to see the optimum amount of choice, so you satisfy consumer demand, not reduce it.

Optimize Your M-commerce Experience and Reap Sales Benefits

Poor mobile device shopping experiences have retarded actual sales, but as experiences improve, so will sales in the skyrocketing m-commerce marketplace.

Poor mobile device shopping experiences have retarded actual sales, but as experiences improve, so will sales in the skyrocketing m-commerce marketplace.

E-commerce sales continue to rise, but what stands out even more is the dramatic increase in sales from mobile devices, especially iPhones.

A look at Black Friday sales last year tells the m-commerce story. According to Comscore, 116 million people visited online retail sites, 90 million went there on their mobile devices, 52 million used laptops and 26 million used both.

That may suggest purchasing patterns in the context of a single, busy shopping day where bargains are the premium. Reinforcing that conclusion, the National Retail Council said 34 percent of Valentine’s shoppers this year chose to browse and buy at brick-and-mortar stores.

Notwithstanding Valentine shopping sentiment, the trend is clear – more people feel more comfortable shopping and buying online to avoid congested shopping areas, messy displays, rude clerks and long checkout lines. There is less hassle looking at what you want on your phone, tossing into a virtual cart and purchasing it with a click.

Using thumbs instead of feet to shop has some significant consequences. Retailers need to ensure they have e-commerce sites that are easy to navigate on mobile devices, including phones. Greg Sterling, writing for Marketing Land, said he finds “poor site experiences to be the rule rather than the exception."

"Though still challenging, browsing and buying on mobile sites is getting better,” Sterling says. "And the identified gap between mobile traffic and conversions argues m-commerce would (and will) eclipse the PC as mobile user experiences improve.”

Online conversion rates via laptop still dominate, Sterling suggests, because of unsatisfactory user experiences on mobile devices. Retailers need to think phones, not tablets as the emerging dominant mobile device and, where possible, employ apps to improve user experience and convenience.

Personal shopping isn’t going away, but it is headed in new directions. Don’t get left behind.

Sizing Up Voters Through Panel Research

CBS News and YouGov are using panel research techniques to create Nation Tracker, a longitudinal look at where the American electorate stands now on President Trump and how they will react to his policies and actions during his presidency.

CBS News and YouGov are using panel research techniques to create Nation Tracker, a longitudinal look at where the American electorate stands now on President Trump and how they will react to his policies and actions during his presidency.

Public opinion polling is changing. A good example is the CBS News/YouGov Nation Tracker that gains insights from a large representative panel of participants who can be segmented and interviewed multiple times to see how their views shift over time.

Anthony Salvanto shared the first set of what will be ongoing insights on Sunday’s Face the Nation. Based on an online survey of panel participants, Salvanto said the nation’s view of Donald Trump as President breaks down into four categories – Believers (22%), Conditionals (22%), Curious (21%) and Resisters (35%).

The first category are true believers who think Trump is on the right track. Conditionals generally support Trump, but may not approve of everything he does or says. The Curious are opponent, but could be swayed depending on Trump actions. Resisters see no hope in Trump and oppose him across the board.

The key test for Trump, according to Salvanto, will be whether he makes good on his promise to restore the nation’s economy, especially for those who feel economically displaced and forgotten. If Trump shows marked economic improvement, Salvanto says he may have surprising political upside for the 40 percent of Americans who are conditionally supporting him now or are curious how he will fare.

Panel-based public opinion polling isn’t new, but it is getting more attention as a way to elicit a more nuanced understanding of what voters are thinking and reacting.  Panel research has some built-in advantages:

  • It employs larger sample sizes, which permit more reliable segmentation;
  • It enables follow-up questioning based on how people answer questions in a survey;
  • It allows tracking surveys to see how events influence panel participants in previous surveys.

The latter functionality of panel research is the reason CBS and YouGov chose this methodology to keep track of movement in the four categories of voters they drew out of the initial survey. For example, if President Trump backs out of NAFTA, the tracking poll could detect how that affects Believers, Conditionals, Curious and Resisters. Pollsters also will be able to probe more deeply through online focus groups with members of each category to see what specifically about the action caused them to respond positive or negative.

Frequent flash surveys, using the entire panel or categories within the panel give a weekly TV political talk show an ongoing source of reliable and original data. The data can be compelling enough for on-air use and detailed enough for longer exposition on a website. Over time, the branded data from NationTracker can be a hook for earned media coverage.

The bottom line is that viewers will get an easy-to-understand picture of the electorate in the Trump era and see how his actions and policies influence the electorate on much more sophisticated scale than whether voters like him or despise him.

Popcorn and a Potential US-Mexico Trade War

Who would think that a trade war between the United States and Mexico could affect the popcorn you chomp on while watching a movie – especially if you were watching a movie in a theater in Mexico

Who would think that a trade war between the United States and Mexico could affect the popcorn you chomp on while watching a movie – especially if you were watching a movie in a theater in Mexico

Building a border wall, making Mexico pay and renegotiating NAFTA would certainly create winners and losers. Like popcorn producers.

What’s a great movie without a buttery barrel of popcorn. Money is no object, within limits. When the price gets too steep for kernels, people shut their wallets and movie house owners look for cheaper alternatives.

The world’s fourth largest movie theater chain owner says a trade war between the United States and Mexico could force his hand and cause him to change popcorn suppliers. Unfortunately, this won’t be a victory for who you think. The losers will be popcorn producers in Kansas, Missouri and Iowa because the movie chain owner is Alejandro Ramirez and his movie theaters are in Mexico.

That’s the tricky thing about international trade. It cuts both ways. Ramirez says just a 2 percent tariff on US-sourced popcorn would lead him to dump Heartland suppliers and start buying his popcorn from Argentina. The same goes, he adds, for the $40 million he spends annually in America for movie projectors and big screens and the $6.5 million for Wisconsin cheese.

Ramirez is not alone. US popcorn exports to Mexico total $2 billion per year.  That may not seem like much in the face of the $58 billion US trade deficit with Mexico in 2015. But it isn’t chump change either and shows that changing the rules on trade can have far-reaching and unforeseen consequences.

According to the US Trade Representative, Mexico is our country’s third largest trading partner with $531 billion in annual two-way trade. We export $236 million in goods to Mexico and import $295 billion. Trying to limit what we import through tariffs could wind up cutting what we export. And there is no guarantee of a net US job gain in a trade war with Mexico. Ironically, what could happen is the loss of more American jobs – for example, in the popcorn business.

Where Millennials Go Will Shape Cities, Suburbs

The Millennial population has plateaued and its appetite for loft living in urban cores may be softening amid the lure of single-family homes and walk-in schools in the suburbs.

The Millennial population has plateaued and its appetite for loft living in urban cores may be softening amid the lure of single-family homes and walk-in schools in the suburbs.

Cities have become congregations of Millennials, pushing up apartment rents, supporting hipster culture and fueling arguments over gentrification. But now some demographers and apartment developers say millennial inflow to urban centers has crested and there are new trickles of outflow to suburbs.

The dream of living in a vibrant, walkable downtown with ample supplies of coffee shops and night life still captivates young adults, but the lure of more affordable housing and elbow room is causing some young adults, especially ones with new families, to look at life in the suburbs, much like their Boomer parents did.

“You can have all the preferences you want, but you have to live somewhere and you have to have a budget,” Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, explained to The New York Times. “Those are the cold hard truths you have to live with.”

Many Millennials came of age during the Great Recession and as colleges tuition and student debt soared. Trouble landing a prized, good-paying job, paying off student loans and finding an apartment have made for some life choices such as buying a home and starting a family more complicated.

How Millennials resolve their dilemmas could influence the shape of both urban cores and suburban areas. In 2015, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living population in the United States.

As young adults crowded into cities, rents skyrocketed and demands arose for rent control. Development is catching up with demand, but the question is whether demand for affordable apartments will soften as Millennials age and yearn for more traditional housing. If that happens, it could put more pressure on inner city neighborhoods within a bike ride to downtown amenities.

Portland economist Joe Cortright thinks this all may be fretting without a reason. He predicts cities will continue to swell even as the Millennial population plateaus because following right behind is Generation Z, whose members are likely to follow a similar pilgrimage to urban centers.

Another interesting wrinkle is that Millennials may be much more diverse than previous US population cohorts.  They also have demonstrably different views about family structure than their parents, which could translate into a wide variance of living styles and housing accommodations.

However, statistics suggest that the migration by Millennials from cities to suburbs has begun. Fivethirtyeight.com cites US Census data indicating more young adults between the ages of 25 to 29 moved from cities to suburbs in 2014 than the other way around. The migration may not be a flood compared to earlier generations, but it appears to be unmistakable as young adults thinking about children fondly recall larger single-family homes with walk-in schools and nearby shopping malls.