Archive for February, 2012

Research: The Cost of a Queue

February 29, 2012

It may surprise some frustrated shoppers waiting on a long line that much thought has been put into the design of a store to manage such waits. “Queueing theory” has been a topic of study for over a century, however most research has focused on balancing operating costs against the level of service offered to the customers. Until now, there has been little work done to identify how the length of a line affects a customer’s purchasing behavior.

Columbia professor Marcelo Olivares and Columbia doctoral candidate Yina Lu, along with Duke professor Andres Musalem and Scopix Solutions’ Ariel Schilkrut, examined how the length of a line impacts purchase decisions. Combining novel digital imaging technology and customer transaction data, they created models that quantify the effects of queues on purchase incidence, switching behavior and sales.  For a queue length of 15 customers or more, purchase incidence reduces from 30% to 27%, corresponding to a 10% drop in sales.

The researchers also found that it is the queue length and not the anticipated waiting time that affects customer behavior. In addition, they discovered that waiting is negatively correlated with price sensitivity.

Read more from Columbia’s Ideas at Work research summary, which includes a link to the full paper.


Why Bob Garfield Is Channeling Shakespeare

February 29, 2012

Not just a famous Shakespearian quote, “To thine own self be true,” according to Ad Age editor, Bob Garfield, is a maxim to which marketers should adhere.

Garfield, host of NPR’s On The Media and author of the forthcoming The Human Element, explains that in this new “Relationship Era,” it’s critical to “look inward” rather than mold your business to the public’s “often fickle, shortsighted tastes.

In a recent Ad Age article, Ignore the Human Element of Marketing at Your Own Peril, Garfield claims that marketers in the “Consumer Era” strove to get into the heads and hearts of consumers by asking them what they wanted, attempting to deliver it, and seducing the target audience to buy it through advertising. However, in today’s world, companies need to continually communicate their “essential self” or brand purpose via relationships with all stakeholders.

Garfield calls these relationships the “human element.” In this new era, customers (as well as vendors, stockholders, and employees) are not “conquests” but rather members of a community, looking to a company’s inner reason to decide if it merits adoration (or, potentially, hatred). The digital revolution has ushered in an age in which consumers are evaluating companies all the time across numerous conversations that go well beyond the latest advertising slogan. According to Garfield, these conversations “are about your brand’s essential self—which behooves you to think very hard about your essential self.”

See Bob Garfield speak about the Relationship Era and the Human Element at our BRITE ’12 Conference (March 5-6, NYC).



Relevance Over Reach, says GE Digital Chief

February 27, 2012

Many marketers are singularly focused on collecting impressions. Not so for Linda Boff, Executive Director of Global Digital Marketing at GE. In an interview with Fast Company’s 30 Second MBA she explained that brand building is not about getting the most number of eyeballs, but about talking “to people in the most relevant way possible.”

Boff, named BtoB magazine’s “Top Digital Marketer of the Year” for 2011, looks beyond pageviews to measure campaign success. In a co-authored blog post on Harvard Business Review, Boff writes that a more useful metric “would be actively engaging” with a specific subset of relevant potential customers. She explains, “[digital tools] have enabled focusing on smaller, more meaningful segments,” a practice GE calls “micro-relevancy”—content that is delivered to the right audience, not just the biggest.

Boff acknowledges that GE “think[s] really hard about who [they] want to talk to.” This careful consideration of the target, in combination with digital technology, has allowed GE to reach “the right audience with the right offer at exactly the right time.” Something that has far more impact on business results than solely accumulating impressions.

See Linda Boff speak about building relationships with customers at our BRITE ’12 Conference (March 5-6, NYC).



The Seesaw of Internet Freedom and Regulation

February 21, 2012

Author Jeff Jarvis is torn. In his most recent book, Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and LiveJarvis argues against internet regulation.  At the same time, he advocates government enforcement of net neutrality, itself a form of regulation.  It’s not only Jarvis who struggles with what level of regulation, if any, is needed and for what purpose.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech in 2010 defending internet freedom.  She called for “a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.” The following year she delivered another speech which simultaneously condemned censorship and attacked WikiLeaks for its release of government data.

On his blog, Jarvis looks at the tension between freedom and regulation, the need for open exchange and the right to privacy and protection. In a recent post, “We Are the Lobbyists,” Jarvis further explores the consequence of these frictions:

The proposed SOPA-PIPA bill is designed to fight online trafficking of copyrighted intellectual property. The proposed bill, and resulting protest, brought many issues to the fore including the dramatically changing natures of media business models, the evolution in the value of content, the undermining of institutions’ previous unchallenged power.

It also created an environment where millions of consumers became lobbyists, using the net to defend internet freedom. The internet provided a platform in which users could make an impact without using “influence peddlers” or political commercials.  The movement only “needed citizens who give a shit. Democracy.” It is up to the internet public to protect the “tool of publicness.”

See Jeff Jarvis speak about the balance of internet privacy and publicness at the BRITE ’12 Conference (March 5-6, NYC).




From Corporate Ladder to Corporate Lattice

February 20, 2012

Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman at Deloitte, believes that the traditional concept of a corporate career ladder is “collapsing.”  In her best-selling book The Corporate Lattice, Benko argues that today’s rapidly evolving, global business environment calls for a lattice model instead of the outdated, inflexible ladder model.  Through this new model, employers become enabled to meet the evolving needs of employees, improving productivity and increasing employee satisfaction.

In an interview with The Personal Branding Blog, Benko explains, “[The] lattice seems a fitting visual for how work gets done, how careers are built, and how participation is fostered today.” The lattice model depicts career paths as multidirectional, recognizing that there is more than one way to “get ahead,” and even multiple ways to define what “get ahead” means.

The model, a holistic, strategic response to the changing corporate landscape, addresses the reality that there are now more options – “there is no longer a single model of engagement.” Employees can now connect “anywhere, anytime” to form virtual, dynamic teams and communities around increasingly project-based work.  In addition, communication is “unconstrained by traditional top-down hierarchy,” fostering greater participation throughout the company regardless of organizational level.

Benko has translated the lattice model into a groundbreaking tool for building personalized career pathways called Mass Career Customization, a signature element of the talent experience at Deloitte. Benko notes, “each of us needs to play an active role in directing our own lattice journey, treating skills, experiences and capabilities as brand-building assets. . . ask yourself: ‘How well do I stay on top of my personal brand and what it says and means to others?'”

See Cathy Benko speak about talent innovation and personal brands at the BRITE ’12 Conference (March 5-6, NYC).



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