Blog: Mike Cearley 

Mike Cearley (bio)
SVP, Digital Strategy

Tuesday, 21 December 2010
What do you think?

I just read a great article in the latest edition of Fast Company titled, “Mayhem on Madison Avenue: Advertising is on the Cusp of its First Creative Revolution Since the 1960′s. But the Ad Industry Might Get Left Behind.”

And as you can guess, one of the primary points made in the article was how the proliferation of digital technology has changed the advertising world, specifically the “creative” in the advertising world and how agencies are valued in brand’s minds. I thought it was a fascinating glimpse into the world of older advertising professionals in today’s time, and when I say older, it’s all relative. I’m not talking ancient, I’m talking young Boomer. In age time, not much older than me. In technical time, it’s drastic. As evidenced this year alone, with the explosion of mobile, technology is advancing at a pace where it seems like a creative, er “digital,” revolution is almost an annual event.

But after I finished reading the article, I couldn’t help but think it was mischaracterized. Just as technology does, masking the true issue with its smoke-and-mirrors effect, I wonder if the real question is, are we in the middle of an engagement revolution?

Some of my favorite nuggets in the article:

Thanks to the Internet and digital technology, agencies are finding that the realization of their clients’ ultimate fantasy — the ability to customize a specific message to a specific person at a specific moment — is within their grasp. It is also one very complex nightmare. After all, digital isn’t just one channel. It’s a medium that blooms thousands of other mediums.

“The irony is that while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it’s never been harder to connect with consumers,” explains [Brad] Jakeman, now chief creative officer at Activision, the gaming company.

The death of mass marketing means the end of lazy marketing.

And the Internet has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way message into a real-time dialogue with millions.

I don’t want to get buried in semantics here, but it’s the same argument that I’ve made with the DOOH/digital signage industry. It’s not about the technology, it’s about what the technology enables. The technology now enables brands to engage with consumers, hopefully to the point of meaningful interaction, one that builds a relationship. It’s hard to do, no doubt, but consumers’ expectations are driven by their lack of attention + the barrage of technological gadgets at their disposal. They might be looking to be wowed or entertained or given something of value – technology allows brands to do this in many ways, including the “OOH” channel – but in the end, aren’t we all just looking to be engaged on some level? We don’t want to be talked at, we want to be talked with.

From a brand’s perspective and the agencies who support them, regardless of their structure/approach, the ones who figure this out first will win. Same can be said for the digital signage providers/planners and OOH experience-makers.

I’m a firm believer in the power of technology, but I’m an even bigger believer in creating relationships. Technology is like the handshake, what happens after that – the discussion – is what strengthens or deadens the relationship. And relationships grow with actual people. And people are the ones who make revolutions. Yes?
Posted by: Mike Cearley AT 09:30 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 07 December 2010

Remember those boots that I talked about my wife finding at JC Penney, the last time I wrote an Out & About (their “Find More” kiosk)? Well, they really didn’t work out – they weren’t the right boots. So, the past couple of weeks have been “mission-on” again to find the right boots. She/we’ve searched offline and online at virtually every store to find these boots, and finally, at our local Kohl’s, we found what seemed to be a solid substitute – the perfect combination of style, color, versatility, and something that can’t be overlooked insofar as women’s shoes go – price. As was the case at JC Penney, while my wife found boots, I found another example of Interactive Out-of-Home (IOOH) – the Kohl’s Kiosk. 

This was some kiosk, if you ask me. They seem to be getting better and better, the more I see. My first impression was positive, but I had to put it up against the scorecard to get the full picture. So, let’s take a look.

Purpose – the common purpose for all of these in-store kiosks is to obviously drive the consumer to purchase. Those are the table stakes. You want to put a kiosk like this in a store – how is going to help the store drive sales? Once that question is answered, I think it’s also important to understand if and how the kiosks are making the shopping experience easier for the consumer and, in any way, making the life of the store employee better. It stands to reason that if the kiosk accomplishes those goals, it's going to drive a fair amount of sales. So, it is here – both in making the consumer’s experience easier and the employee’s life better. This kiosk are a price-checker, in-store catalog, and check-out machine all in one. What else do you need, other than human-to-human contact? This is an element that shouldn’t be overlooked, but I think now more than ever, consumers are more purposeful shoppers versus being casual shoppers. They know what they want and don’t need a lot of help and interaction when they’re in this mindset. All they really need is the Kohl’s Kiosk.

Drama – I think these are fabricated and located just right. They’re not obnoxious in their form, but they’re prominent and noticeable. They don’t block any major traffic areas, but they’re convenient to access via those major traffic areas. In our local Kohl’s, I saw two of these kiosks (one in the shoe department and one near the frames), and they were both next to/facing the aisle, and whether or not you were looking, you were bound to notice them. The smartest things about their form is that they occupy space from floor to ceiling, all of the interaction points are well-placed (touchscreen at eye/torso level and price-scanning/check-out at waist level), and they include multiple awareness points (high above the clothes and fixtures, there is a 4-sided “Kohl’s Kiosk” sign and again, at eye level, there is a looping animation with a clear “Touch Screen” indicator/call-to-action). Everything about the form and placement seems to be well thought-out and purposeful.

Usability – Blah. I understand that these kiosks need to access the real-time database and as a result, are going to run a little bit slower than I’d like. This is probably not an issue to the average consumer. All in all, considering the vast inventory, it wasn’t bad at all. I just hate seeing the arrow and hourglass. They modified this experience from their Web site experience, namely to adjust to the touchscreen form. The buttons were big enough and spaced out nicely. The information was presented in a clear, easy-to-use way, and the navigation was intuitive (no different than a good Web experience). I also liked the fact that they had a global navigation menu docked to the bottom of the screen that allows the user to access any of the main categories in a click.

Interactivity – This was a single-user, single-touch experience and for the most part, the touchscreen was responsive. The true value in this kiosk, for me, comes in the form of the other interactive elements, aside from its touchscreen. Consumers have the ability to take any piece of merchandise with a UPC tag and scan it. In return, they’ll see the price, the quantity, and where in-store it’s located. In addition, to take it one step further, if the consumer wants to pay out via credit/debit card straight from the kiosk, they have the ability to do that, too. Important to note – this means that these systems must tie to the store’s POS system, which means there is a level of complexity and integration to the solution, which means this was not an afterthought. Impressive.

Information – A-plus on all of the product information and access to the in-store and online merchandise. If you want it at Kohl’s, you can get it through this kiosk. But I’m still not seeing a consistent social integration through these. There are many ways to approach this, from being able to access the brand’s social presences, to allowing the consumer to “like” a particular product, to letting them “share this” to their own social communities after purchasing a product, to consumer/social reviews. I hope to see more of this type of content in future iterations of these in-store experiences.

Personalization – No real personalization to speak of through the kiosks, but they have an incredible opportunity to do something special via a loyalty program or simply through their credit cards. The card-scanning mechanism is already in place. With a couple of back-end hooks, they could make this a unique experience for their most loyal customers.

Hands-down, this is the most versatile in-store kiosk I’ve seen this year. I think it should be a model for retailers who are considering one of these in their store. I anticipate seeing more social integration in the coming year. An interesting thought that hit me this morning – I’ve seen and reviewed experiences like this in stores like Walmart, Target, JC Penney and Kohl’s – staples in middle-class America shopping. Exposing these consumers to technology like this and getting them comfortable with it not only shows confidence in what they consumer will do/interact with, it is also gives us hope that this could be something that is adopted by the masses sooner rather than later.

Have you seen any of these kiosks? What were your impressions? I'd love to hear them!

Posted by: Mike Cearley AT 11:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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