January 02, 2014

Project Focus - 2014

I created this image a year ago, and for good reason.

Look across the bottom row of the pyramid ... Merchandise ... Creative ... Finance ... (Customer) Service.

How often do you read about those four, key, foundational tactics?

In 2014, my projects are likely to center around a concept I'm calling "MSS" ... or "Merchandise + Service + Story".

Let's start with Service. For somebody with my skills, customer service means saving catalog expenses and adjusting email marketing contacts. Now, you're familiar with this, correct?

Well, in 2014, I will combine catalog contact strategy with email contact strategies and paid search budgets, yielding a combined contact strategy that increases profit and increases the likelihood of a customer (Judy / Jennifer / Jasmine) being contacted appropriately. Your favorite vendors do not have an algorithm that does what my algorithm will accomplish. Contact me now (kevinh@minethatdata.com) to get a head start - I've just finished up a series of projects that resulted in the development of a new product - Hillstrom's Contact Strategy.

The impact of the contact strategy yields a future trajectory that may be unanticipated.
In my case, I will help fulfill the service side of the "MSS" equation by showing you how your attribution tactics result in a five-year business trajectory that may not be anticipated. Too many of us are looking backward, busy assigning beans to various channels. I care about what the beanstalk will look like. I hope you join me on this mission.

You remember this topic, right?

Well, that's the "Merchandise" portion of the equation. It's the most important aspect of the businesses we manage, responsible for 70% of our success. And it's essentially ignored by everybody but the merchandising team. In 2014, this will be a major focus of my work. I will demonstrate to all of us just how important merchandise is to our businesses. Interestingly, the evolution of merchandising into old-school e-commerce channels (search, email) resulted in a shrinking of the relevant merchandise assortment. Mobile is only going to exaggerate this dynamic - you can only focus on "winners" to "optimize" the mobile experience. This will cause untold long-term problems for businesses focusing on Jennifer, and especially on Jasmine. I will work on a lot of merchandise-centric projects in 2014. Hint - new items are critically important!

What I am going to experiment with in 2014? It is something that I call "story".

Merchandise is obvious ... 70% of the total equation ... Service is all about how you deliver your value proposition to the customer - it might be 30% off plus free shipping, it might be delivering a package to your home next-day, it might be the work I do on forming a contact strategy for each individual customer. Story, however, is very different.

E-commerce is easily the "coldest" of all channels. There's almost no story - and how could there be? The minute you try a new story, customers revolt, you measure it in real time, and you go back to what you were previously doing ... calling it "optimization".

Story, based in merchandise and service, amplifies all that is good about a business. Think Apple, for a moment - think about their story, how it amplifies merchandise sales, how it creates social media discussions that are measurable.

Or think about how businesses we know use Pinterest (click here). Here, the story unfolds on Pinterest (as opposed to being a Pinterest strategy). We have everything backwards. When we have a story, mobile and social become useful. When we don't have a story, sales struggle, so we're stuck with 30% off plus free shipping - which becomes the story (this business is desperate for my business).

Story is maybe the only place where a catalog brand has an advantage.

Story is a place where e-commerce is at a supreme disadvantage, compared to retail.

Story has yet to be defined in a mobile world.

Since Story will be so important, as a differentiator, going forward, I have no choice but to spend time researching it in 2014. It is likely that I'll offer experimental products at significantly lower-than-normal rates in 2014, products that center on the stories we tell.

In 2014, my projects will hang off of the "MSS", or "Merchandise + Service + Story" framework.

  • Merchandise via Merchandise Forensics.
  • Service via Hillstrom's Contact Strategies - optimizing catalogs + email + search.
  • Story, showing how creative and social and mobile and imagery lead to improved merchandise/marketing productivity.
This thought process (MSS) aligns across our three personas ... Judy, Jennifer, and Jasmine. There should be a strategy for Merchandise, Service, and Story for each persona, leading to nine different tactical directions in 2014.

That's where I'm headed in 2014. Get your project requests in early in 2014, because my calendar is rapidly filling up!! (kevinh@minethatdata.com).