How Groupon Ruined My Group-OHM

I know that Groupon is everyone’s favorite way to get a deal for whatever they didn’t even know they wanted. Marketers love this easy way to add new customers quickly. Even though it drives traffic to stores, Groupon members sometimes experience the downside, as they can be shoved to the back of the line as ‘discount customers’ or are disregarded because they’re suspected as people who tip too low, expect too much and turn out to be one night stand customers. But lately I’ve uncovered another underbelly of the program, the Groupon drop-in’s who wreck the regulars’ service experience.

Case in point: I belong to a yoga studio in Manhattan where I practice early mornings twice a week. I love the class not only for the teacher but for its handful of quiet, lovely people who show up before sunrise.

A couple of months ago, I walked blissfully into the studio and almost tripped over the crowd of newbies who had suddenly assumed every inch of space. I know it’s unyoga-like, but I felt annoyed. Where did this crowd of downward dogs come from? Why were they asking so many questions, butting into my mat, exhaling so loudly? The teacher confided later, “We did a Groupon deal…don’t worry, they’ll be gone in a month.” And they were.

I love a bargain, and bargains are often to the key to successful marketing to women. I’m happy that Groupon creates business growth for retail. But I wonder if there’s a secret sabotage brewing, namely the unspoken resentment of the full paying customers. What if they take their money elsewhere to avoid the Groupon Groupies? What if make the Groupon visitors feel like outcasts? Not that I did, but hey, I’m looking for inner peace, not a lot of company. Namaste!

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5 Things Women Want from Grocery Stores

1. The need for speed. Recently Phil Lempert (a fave of ours) released a study called Retailers Most Annoying Habits. In it, he outlined all of the things consumers (and we will assume that they are mostly women) found irritating “not enough cashiers (44%), items on top shelves too high to reach (35%), promotional displays impede aisle traffic (28%), the store keeps moving items around (27%), aisles too narrow (25%), and not enough baggers (20%).” All of these have to do with how fast can women get in and get out. I have one word – staffing! My personal pet peeve is Express Lanes for items under 20. Why are people who aren’t buying a lot getting the speedy lane when I am spending the big bucks and I’m stuck behind 4 other full carts?

2. New Product availability Because women are so media savvy they want to see new products hit their local shelves quickly. They see something in a magazine, watch it on Top Chef or read about in on a blog and then they want to get it. If it isn’t on the shelf in one, maybe two, visits to the store you can bet that women will forget to look for it going forward and you’ve missed your opportunity.

3. Private Label products that don’t feel like a consolation prizes. The private label category has really risen to the occassion of a sluggish economy. Target in particular has done an amazing job with Archer Farms – unique items with cool packaging that don’t make you feel like you are being punished for buying the store brand.

Women we’ve interviewed tell us that they supplement their grocery list with these items only in categories that don’t “count” so they can afford their family’s non-negotiable items like Oreos or Kraft Mac n Cheese (or risk mutiny in the kitchen). My father used to buy Pathmark’s Scrunchy Cola (did I date myself?) and one morning I found him pouring the soda into a Coke bottle so we wouldn’t know. Nearly broke my 10 year old heart but now I can imagine doing the exact same thing.

4. Hours that understand her job is 24 hours long Women need to shop at stores that understand her need to shop when it fits into her schedule (after school drop off, during lunch or late at night). Stores need to check that they are open early enough in the morning to accomodate women who want to squeeze in a shopping trip before they get to work and late enough for the night owls who get a second wind at 9pm. And make sure that the store operates on full tilt during these hours – deli open, more than one cashier available – so that they don’t walk away without the things they really need.

5. Bulk that isn’t too bulky. Millenials are less likely to stock up when there is a sale or buy big bulk sizes. It’s just not their style We did Selfnography research last year with women in their 20s where they captured their lives on Flip cameras so we could see how they ate at home and entertained with their friends. What struck me was the way they felt about having an empty fridge (usually had some condiments and a bottle of vodka stashed in the ice cube bin). These women weren’t embarassed by their lack of food but rather seemed proud that their social lives were robust enough that they didn’t have to eat at home. These women aren’t likely to buy Costco sized bulk but are open to 3 or 4 day supplies of their favorites because it will save them time at the end of the day.

(Interestingly, when we interview Gen X moms and they show us their kitchens there is usually an overflowing pantry and stuffed freezers and fridges. If they had an empty fridge they would probably feel embarassed to show it off because it would make them look like they weren’t nurturing caregivers to their families.)

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RAVE Review: IKEA Business

We decided to do a little makeover of our office and now that we have done a major clean out (more than 12 dumpster loads!) and had the place painted we needed to address some decorating needs. Over the weekend I went as a civilian to IKEA in Elizabeth, NJ. I took some pictures and bought a few samples to bring to the office for a vote. The good news was that everyone liked what I picked. The bad news (I thought) was that I was going to have to somehow convince my amazing husband to drive our minivan sportscar to IKEA and then lug everything to our downtown office.

But then I remembered a speech I gave at IKEA a few years ago where I was introduced to their IKEA Business department. All I knew was that they would help but I will be honest that my expectations were low and I thought that I’d be doing the shlep soon enough. Instead I have had a rock star experience with them. I called the store and was connected via automated message to an IKEA Business representative who checked stock, tracked down an item and took my order within 12 hours. Within minutes I was called by someone who took my credit card info and then said the magic words… “Would you like that delivered today?” Does it get better than this? Now we have everything we need on-site and it didn’t require going through the Holland Tunnel. Yeah IKEA.

DISCLAIMER: We have worked with IKEA in the past but are not currently retained

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Are you talkin’ to me??

I was standing in the checkout line at GAP yesterday and in the mix of the hustle and bustle of the shoppers, heard someone crooning something once, then twice, until I finally looked up and realized the cashier was summoning me with the liquid-y new lingo pilfered from Target, “Following guest?” Huh? Believe me, I am as rabid a line stander as anyone and wouldn’t miss the chance to hurry to the register but after so many years of being shouted at with “NEXT CUSTOMER!”, I was tone deaf to this gentle invitation to step forward. It happened again at another mass outlet and I watched the customer in front of me stand silently like a car that doesn’t respond to a green light. So, the cashier re-announced, a little louder, “Following guest, please”. But it’s hard to yell that phrase, so still no action.

We’re not used to being talked to as guests after retailers spending years training us to respond to “NEEEEXXXTTT!”.  But it seems that this holiday season, with every dollar on the line, stores are not only offering discounts, they’re extending courtesy. Wow. What a concept. Hope it sticks if things pick up!

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Forget Black Friday. It’s Black Monday for Women Shoppers

Last night I had a few free minutes before a dentist’s appointment and I popped into a BCBG store. “Come on in,” trilled Michelle, the manager, “50 percent off leather, bags, sweaters because we’re starting Black Friday now!” I’ve noticed email invites from retailers, store signs, commercials all pre-empting the big day by making it a big week. The Target ads, which feature the return of the funny shopper practicing her Black Friday techniques and stamina seem old this year. By the time she flexes her muscles for Friday a.m. doorbusters, she may find she can just stroll the aisles on her own.Next year’s prediction: Black Friday will be November 1st, once the “second retail Christmas” of Halloween is done!

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Trial Offers Turn Me On

I am a redeemer of coupons, a loyalty club card afficionado and a rebate expert so when two brands that I LOVE offered me trial memberships in their upgraded service programs I couldn’t help myself.

First, Amazon offered me free Prime membership because I am a mom. I know there was a lot of turmoil by non-breeders about this program but let’s face it there should be some sort of reward for surviving this whole parenting thing. (In hindsight, Amazon should have made it a Parenting program so as to include dads and even grandparents.) So as long as I spend a certain amount in their baby store my membership will keep getting re-upped. Since I’ve had this privilege my shopping at Amazon versus other retailers (brick or click) has almost tripled. Having the products arrive in 2 days (most of the time) rocks and saves me time and money. I order from the app on my iPhone while I’m on the road and usually the product beats me to my house. Every birthday gift for my twins’ friends has come from Amazon and normally they would have only had a portion of my gift giving budget.

Second, Fresh Direct launched in my NJ town. I nearly flipped my lid celebrating this news because while our grocery stores are okay there is nothing better than the Fresh Direct selection and prices on meat, seafood and prepared foods. When it launched I got a generous coupon off my first two orders which is de rigeour for FD. BUT they also offered me a 2 month trial of their unlimited delivery pass. As long as I spend $30 on each order I get free delivery. The charge for delivery is about $7 regularly and that is enough to make me think twice about making smaller sized orders. I’m one month into the trial and take advantage of it at least once per week.

Now the real question is will I renew these offers when it comes down to opening my wallet? Probably is my answer. If either of these retailers are smart they would be paying very close attention to the shoppers who enrolled in the trial. Now that we are getting hooked it will be hard to go back to paying more. I believe that there might be some extra motivation needed to pay out of pocket for these things (discounted rate on renewal, rewards for turning other people on to the program) but overall I believe this has been money well spent by both brands.

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Happy Birthday, Buy something from me!

My birthday is over a month away but according to a few retailers, the time to spend is NOW! Though I avoid store cards no matter what the offer, I am a sucker for the ‘what’s your birthday?’ come-on ‘s at major retailers. So, it’s a nice treat when all my store friends help me blow out the candles. Of course, some retailer programs are more generous and less self-serving than others.

As a Sephora Insider, I received “We’ve got a Beauty Insider Birthday Gift waiting for you.” Can’t hate that because it’s a really good bunch of eye makeup. No strings—yippee!
DSW promises $5 off a pair of shoes, Victoria’s Secret, $10 off a purchase and J.Crew, 25% whatever I buy, as many times as I like, for the next two weeks. Very nice! The biggest discount was from upscale boutique Diane Von Furstenberg who’s sporting me to $50 off my next purchase.

For my money, J.Crew and DVF are the most appealing because they’re being generous with quality merchandise. As much as DSW and Vicky’s Secret are fun stores, a further discount wouldn’t entice me into a special trip to stores which are already low-priced. If I were their marketing director, I’d come up with free product instead. DSW might offer a cute clutch or on-the-spot free waterproofing for new boots. And VS ought to give away a free pair of undies or black tights. In both cases, they’d reinforce their product story vs just money off. I know that I can’t go to either store without buying something unplanned, but they need to lure me in with more perceived value than five or ten bucks.

Yeah, yeah, don’t look a gift (certifcate!) in the mouth! But it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

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Less is more may not be for everyone

On my way home last night I made a much needed detour into my local Trader Joe’s. The line was long but I committed to the shopping experience in order to pick up some coveted items. One cart full later and a fairly quick check out (where the cashier took time to get me another carton of eggs because one was broken), I thought to myself, Oh Trader Joe’s, how I’ve missed you.

In the September 6th  issue of Fortune Magazine, Beth Kowitt goes behind the scenes of Trader Joe’s, one of the hottest and most secretive retailers in America”.  One of my favorite secrets to success:  “swapping selection for value”. Go into any Trader Joe’s and you will be welcomed by a variety of paired down options. As Stew Leonard Jr. notes in the article, “Having a wide selection may help get customers in the store, but it won’t increase the chances they’ll buy.”  We’ve said it before, too many options can lead to analysis paralysis. Beth agrees.

So, I was surprised to read in Jack Neff’s Wal-Mart article in Ad Age a few weeks back.  Wal-Mart had announced that they were bringing back thousands of items which had been previously eliminated during Project Impact, the strategy that was initiated in 2008, to help reduce clutter and open up the customer space.  And even more surprising, sales were up since returning the displays to “Action Alley”.

How could one strategy work so well for one retailer and be the pitfall for another?  Could it be the customer base?  Or perhaps the answer lies in the role the stores play. Trader Joe’s is a supermarket, Wal-Mart is a superstore. While both offer great prices, Trader Joe’s has built a reputation for being a curator of the best food choices.  Therefore customers trust that if there are only one or two options, whether it be olives or peanut butter, those options are going to be good. Wal-Mart on the other hand, has always been the hostess with the mostest.  Obviously customers go there for what they can get at everyday low prices. They are not looking for the culled down version. 

I will still venture to guess that customers still want the aisles uncluttered and the shelves well-stocked. For Wal-Mart, allowing the customer to curate is a strategy that will be worth watching in the months to come.

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We Haven’t Stopped Blogging, Don’t Worry.

Just visit our Half Truth Blog for more

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You Break It? Good for you!

I loved reading about this new venting store in Shanghai that’s for women only.  Inside, women discover rooms full of stuff they can break with a baseball bat or a gloved hand to vent their rage. (If you have to ask ‘Why?’, just skip this blog.)

Imagine smashing a TV with one too many ballgames, throwing a dish against the wall to protest the last straw, pounding a table to bits to protest bad service. It’s about time someone recognized the need to unleash what bugs us (in a good way!) so that we can walk out of the store, having broken whatever we want…and not be charged.

In the US, women needing a place to vent can check out No baseball bats, but a lot of punches are cheerfully thrown!

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October 19, 2021
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Go There

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