Thursday, June 28, 2012


July is just around the corner, a good month for most Americans to take their annual vacations.  Accordingly this is the time of the year that experts advise us to unplug from our virtual world and join the physical world where our real connections actually live.  Time to practice Nongkrong.

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For starters, how wired is America?   According to CTIA, the wireless association, 90 percent of America’s population (313.5 million) owns a mobile phone and there are an estimated 332 million mobile phone subscribers.  Are you one of those readers that has more than one subscription?  Back in March Nieslen reported that 53 percent of mobile subscribers own a smartphone.  On average, Americans spend 2.7 hours per day (source: Digital Buzz Blog) socializing on their mobile device – twice the amount of time we spend eating. 

What about social networking?  The Pew Internet & American Life Project indicates that 66% of online American adults use social networking sites.  Retrevo Gadegetology studies indicates that 56% of social networkers check in everyday, 12% every couple of hours. The under 25 crowd revealed that 19% of those surveyed definitely check in if they wake up in the middle of the night, 32% check in as soon as they wake up. No surprise given that the Pew Research Center reported back in 2010 that 83% of Millennials sleep with their mobile phones.

Based on the above statistics, we all need to learn how to unplug, but better yet I advocate it is time to practice nongkrong.  What is Nongkrong?  It is Indonesia’s slang word for hanging/chilling out – sitting, talking and doing nothing.  So I recommend when you finally go on vacation leave your virtual world behind and join the physical world where your spouse, children, friends, partners and pets actually live and enjoy some Nongkrong.

I am curious, when was the last time you experienced Nongkrong?

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Loyalty Game – Part II

Earlier in the week I outlined the benefits of loyalty marketing.  I also indicated that technology was enhancing the quality of the programs being promoted.  Now marketers are taking their programs to the next level by incorporating an element of gamification.

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Before I continue, I need to explain gamification, a topic I first addressed back in 2011.  In a nutshell, gamification is where companies capitalize on the competitive nature of their consumers and design games complete with rewards.  These games use the collaborative technology platforms of Web 2.0 to leverage markets, networks and communities.  One of the first pioneers of gamification was Foursquare, a mobile, location-based social networking service that was first introduced in 2009.  Foursquare now has 20 million registered users.  Users earn points/badges for checking into a venue – the ultimate goal based on accumulated check-ins is to be crowned “Mayor.”

This year I have been awarded the opportunity to speak at numerous conferences about mobile technology and how it is impacting consumer impulse purchasing.  Consequently, I have become aware of some new, innovative loyalty programs that incorporate gamification.  Detailed below are my top picks:

·      Shopkicks is an amazing location-based mobile shopping network that drives customer loyalty.  Download their app, locate a participating Retailer, step into their nearest location and immediately earn “kicks” (a.k.a. points/rewards).  You will earn additional “kicks” when you buy designated products.  Rewards can be redeemed at participating Retailers – Target, Old Navy, Toy “R” Us, dining certificates, iTune downloads, etc.  ExxonMobile just jumped on the Shopkicks bandwagon and is testing the loyalty program in three markets.

·      CheckPoints is another shopping app that consumers can use anywhere (e.g., grocery stores, pharmacies, department stores, etc.) where they scan featured products, earn points, plus a coin.  The coin is then used to play games in their Bonus area for additional points.  CheckPoints has a huge selection of rewards, some of which can be delivered to your phone for instant gratification.

·        Plink is a new restaurant and shopping loyalty program that members can earn Facebook Credits at more than 25,000 locations nationwide (e.g., Burger King, Taco Bell, Outback, etc.).  Facebook Credits can be redeemed to buy virtual goods or games like Farmville or Mafia Wars.  There are approximately 60 million social gamers in the U.S.

As I stated in Part I & II of the Loyalty Game, loyalty marketing thanks to mobile technology and the competitive nature of consumers, is constantly evolving.  Let the games begin.

Did you find this post rewarding? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Loyalty Game – Part I

Old marketing adage: “Your best customer is your existing customer.”  Consequently smart marketers are updating their existing loyalty programs or are introducing new programs to capitalize on current mobile and social technology trends.  Add a dash of gamification – the loyalty game is about to become embedded in our daily lives.

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Today’s post is the first of a two part series titled The Loyalty Game.  First I would like to provide the rationale of why loyalty programs are a great marketing tool to build customer retention.  In my next post, I will recommend my picks for the best 2012 innovative loyalty programs.

A well designed loyalty program can be the foundation for a sustainable business model.  I have read numerous studies that detail the financial benefits of retaining existing customers.  The Bain Consulting Group once reported that most businesses lose between 20 to 40 percent of its customers each year.  Therefore by focusing on decreasing customer attrition, a company can improve their bottom line profits.  In another study, Northwestern University’s Center for Retail Management projects that 12-15 percent of a business’s most loyal customers contribute 55-70 percent their overall sales.  Loyal customers are also great ambassadors for referring new customers.  It varies by industry, but in Foodservice word of mouth is still critical for sales growth.  Granbury Restaurant Solutions recently indicated that 82 percent of loyalty program guests refer at least one guest; 42 percent refer four or more.

Thanks to smartphones, loyalty marketing is now on steroids.  Gone are the days of punch cards or coded mini-loyalty cards dangling off key chains.  According to Experian Simmons, over 33 million American consumers use their smartphones for shopping, as well as work their loyalty programs.  Location-based rewards applications are the latest rage where loyal consumers can redeem their rewards at the Retailer of their choice.

Unfortunately I am not offering any rewards for reading this post.  However, in my next post you will be rewarded with some insight about new loyalty programs that are beginning to change the playing field when it comes to loyalty marketing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Millennials are widely known for their affinity for technology.  Consequently, due to all their electronic devices and connectivity they do not keep normal hours and have evolved into a wired, 24/7 generation.  Modern Putra recognizes this and has created C-Hangouts.

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Modern Putra is 7-Eleven’s Indonesian master franchisee.  Their stores offer 7-Eleven’s signature Big Bite hot dogs, Big Gulp soft drinks, flavored Slurpees, cafĂ© items (coffee and cappuccino) as well as local favorites like chicken katsu, fried rice and pillow bread.  Beer and wine are only sold in a few community approved locations since Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

Indonesia’s currently ranks fourth in world population at approximately 245 million people.  According to their age distribution data more than half of the country’s population is 34 and under.  Modern Putra estimates that sixty five percent of their franchise’s customers are younger than thirty.  Accordingly Modern Putra revamped their stores to also include seating, Wi-Fi, in a clean, 24/7 air-conditioned environment compared to the food stalls called warung where younger people formally gathered.  The franchisee also acknowledges that Indonesia is considered one of the most wired countries in the world, thus occasionally hosts local bands at some of their premier locations.  With 44 thousand plus Facebook fans and 57,000 Twitter followers, the word gets out!  On a given night the 7-Eleven parking lots are filled with either motorbikes or luxury cars since the stores appeal to the lower-middle class, as well as the nouveaux rich.  7-Eleven has become the recreational place for young people to hangout in Indonesia, the Convenience Hangout. 

Will America’s C-Stores become the new C-Hangouts for Millennials?

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Diploma Divide

Over the weekend I was reading up on May’s dismal job report.  The Labor Department reported Friday that only 69,000 jobs were added.  Then I thought about the recent influx of college graduates.  That is when I learned about a more serious development in our country’s economy – The Diploma Divide.

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The Brooking Institution reported that 32 percent of U.S. metropolitan areas have adult residents with a four-year college degree.  Earlier this year, unemployment was 7.5 percent in cities where more than one in three adults were college educated; 10.5 percent for cities where one in six adults had a college degree.  Their research also revealed that we are beginning to witness a new trend: “The Diploma Divide.” 

In geographic areas where manufacturing prospered before the recession like Ohio’s Rust Belt, jobs that did not require a college degree were plentiful.  Now that the Rust Belt’s job market has evaporated, those residents that attained a four-year degree since the recession need to follow the job market.  Consequently they tend to migrate to geographic areas where other college graduates succeed.  The Metropolitan areas that have benefited the most are San Francisco, Austin, New York City, Stamford, and Raleigh.  These cities are experiencing growth sectors in technology, finance, as well on being the home to research universities.

How big has the Diploma Divide gotten?  According to the Brooking Institution, the difference historically between the most educated (residents with four-year degrees) and least educated cities was 16 percentage points.  Today the spread has doubled.  What is the by-product of the Diploma Divide?  College graduates have higher household incomes, lower divorce rates, fewer single parent households and longer life expectancies.  In the words of a senior fellow at Brookings that raised the red flag, “knowledge breeds knowledge.”  To me it sounds that this vicious cycle does not bode well for an overall, balanced economic recovery.

What are your thoughts?