A MARKETING ASSOCIATE picked up an interesting tidbit of information in the course of a recent social media campaign. He found that the campaign pulled plenty of views, clicks, and sales on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and almost none on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on holidays and weekends.
At first blush, two conclusions might appear reasonable. First, that the best time to run social media ads is during so-called “banker’s hours.” (Apologies for the stereotype to hardworking bankers.) Second, that your employees may be spending considerable amounts of time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram et al—when you’re supposedly paying them to work.
The surfing-not-working problem used to be limited to jobs that plunk employees all day in front of a computer. But thanks to portable devices, it’s now easier than ever to waste time no matter when and where you work. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.
There are some data that appear to back up both conclusions. ComScore reported that online shopping during the year-end holidays “… peaked during the middle of the day … More than half of all online dollars were spent between the hours of 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, with the heaviest spending (26.9 percent) occurring during the 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM time segment.” Advertising Age reported a U.K. study that found, “Younger audiences … showed more interest in commercial messages as the day progressed, while older age groups had distinct peaks in attention between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.”
If you clicked the above links, you may have noticed that, respectively, the ComScore and Advertising Age data are from 2007 and 2009. In a fast-evolving digital world, that makes them ancient. More recent data in this area are painfully difficult to track down, but at least one 2012 study from Statista shows that 54 percent of online sales happen outside of normal work hours. While that’s encouraging, it leaves a hefty 46 percent shopping from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Don’t change your social media schedule—or fire anyone—just yet. There are caveats.
First, it’s unreasonable to assume that everyone is at work on weekdays from 9 to 5. Second, even 2012 data are old. Third, U.K. and U.S. work and shopping habits may differ. Fourth, my associate’s data relate to just one product. Other products targeting other markets may not produce the same results.
If you’re deciding upon day parts to advertise in social media, all of the above leave you with little to go on. What to do? Simple. Never assume. Find out what works for your market by testing and tracking days and day parts.
Equally important, make an ongoing practice of testing. Per my earlier comment about a fast-evolving digital world, a day part that serves you well one week may betray you the next.
Currency is a social contract. Whether we’re talking dollars, euros, pesos, rubles, or yen, their worth is no more nor less than what the parties to a transaction agree they’re worth.
The word currency came into fashion in the mid 17th Century CE. It was coined (so to speak) from the Latin currens, meaning to run or to flow, as currency has a habit of doing. But the concept of currency started out millennia earlier. Had you lived long enough ago, you could have paid debts and made purchases with knives, salt, tea, whale teeth, coconuts, cattle, seashells, grain, and more.
In a manifestation of convergent economic evolution, official coins began appearing independently in India, China, and cities surrounding the Aegean Sea between 700 and 500 BCE. China introduced paper currency in the 11th Century CE. As for American paper currency, it was backed by gold until 1933 or 1971, depending on how you prefer to define “backed.”
I can wrap my mind around determining the relative worth of, say, a volume of grain and a cow. The leap to agreeing to accept pieces of minted metal and, later, slips of printed paper as representative of worth seems quite the cultural feat.
Currency hasn’t stopped evolving. If you’re alive at the moment, you’re aware of newer forms of currency, such as numbers that your financial institution records and that you exchange by use of a plastic card with a magnetic strip (and also, now, a microchip), a computer, or portable device like a smartphone or tablet.
And then there’s Bitcoin. Though not the first virtual or digital currency, it is by far the best known and most successful. It launched in 2009 when Satoshi Nakamoto, which may or may not be a real person’s name, released shareware by which people could “mine” Bitcoins through the execution of complex algorithms. The algorithm is designed so that the total minable quantity is finite and will likely be reached between 2110 and 2140. To the surprise of many, sufficient numbers of people and corporations quickly agreed on the value of bitcoins and began using them for purchasing and investing.
Bitcoin’s future looked shaky at the end of 2014, but Bloomberg View now reports that in 2015 Bitcoin “… gained almost 40 percent, knocking the Somali shilling into second place, the Gambian dalasi into third, and the Burundi franc to a distant fourth spot.” Bitcoin has become so successful that governments are in the throes of sorting out how to define it, and whether and how to tax it.
Charles H. Duell, the U.S. Patent Office Commissioner in 1899, went down in history for lamenting, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Poor Duell. There is no record that he ever said that. Rather, it appears that a 1985 advertising campaign placed those naive words in his mouth, making him an instant urban legend. In any case, if there is one lesson that history has taught us and that the technological revolution drives home daily, it is that there will never be a time when everything that can be invented has been invented.
Which leads me to wonder what the next currency will be. Stay tuned.
ONE FINE DAY amid the airline deregulation of the early 1980s, a visionary at American Airlines reasoned that it would cost nothing—and might just earn goodwill—to give unsold seats to frequent customers. In no time, the idea bled into other airlines and, later, into other verticals, from sandwich shops to financial institutions.
Not that the idea was new. Over a century ago, retailer L.H. Parke created Parke’s Blue Point Trading Stamps. Customers earned stamps by paying with cash and were able to use them to buy merchandise. Parke’s idea was a hit. Soon grocery stores, gas stations, and other merchants across the United States were offering the likes of S&H Green Stamps, Top Value Stamps, Gold Bond Stamps, Plaid Stamps, Blue Chip Stamps, and more.
The trading stamp heyday has passed, but points-toward-freebies to incentivize frequency and spend is alive and well. Such programs are ubiquitous to the point that the term “rewards program” has risen from industry jargon to common usage.
If your rewards program increases frequency and spend, congratulations are in order, for not all do. It doesn’t follow, however, that loyalty necessarily rises in sync. In fact, loyalty may remain flat. As direct response marketing guru Steve Cuno recently blogged, “If you think a bribed customer is a loyal customer, just wait until a competitor comes along and offers a richer bribe.”
Want to see real loyalty? Try selling a Kawasaki to a Harley rider, a Yamaha piano to a Steinway pianist, a PC to a Mac user, Wrangler jeans to a Levis wearer, Pepsi to a Coke enthusiast, or a Mets T-shirt to a Yankees fan. If you try, you may want to wear body armor.
Some of the above-named products have rewards programs and some do not, but every one of them has loyal customers. That’s “loyal” not so much as in “frequency and spend” and more as in “wild horses couldn’t drag ’em away.”
Loyalty of that ilk is not the sort of thing you buy or bribe your way into. It’s something customers bestow. To date there is no sure formula for making them bestow it. Come up with one and you’ll be rich.
But here’s a clue. Recall any time that you have heard someone rave about a favorite product or place of business. Chances are that behind the rave were one or more anecdotes, not about technology and systems, but about treatment beyond the norm. Perhaps it was a problem solved, a name remembered, a courtesy extended, a generous policy, extra time taken, or a human approach.
In the financial services industry, we hear and preach ad nauseam that ours is a relationship business, and that, as interactions and transactions continue their march to digital platforms, strong relationships can save us from morphing into lookalikes.
Therein lies the opportunity. We’re dealing with people’s money! Few business transactions, legal ones, anyway, are more intimate. If any industry is in a position to perform in a way that deserves loyalty, it’s the financial services industry.
I have often blogged and spoken about the need build into functional systems a compelling customer experience. High tech shouldn’t mean detached.
Looking for a New Years Resolution? Consider that with no shortage of ordinary customer treatment out there, it doesn’t take much to be extraordinary. Besides frequency and spend, why not go for earning true loyalty?
In the 1970s, banks tended to limit marketing themthar newfangled ATMs to people around 30 years old and younger, aka Boomers. The reasoning was that interfacing with not just a machine but a computer (!) would intimidate if not terrify anyone much older than that.
They weren’t wrong. Back then, all that most people knew about computers was that they might turn out to be Hal. Cross one, and it might eject you into space. (For the benefit of young ’uns, that’s a reference to the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a classic that pretty well ushered in modern sci-fi cinema and is worth seeing.)
If I have the arithmetic right, those 30 and under in the 1970s are 75 and under today. Technology doesn’t terrify them—the digital revolution happened around them—but mastering the latest technology is another matter. While a few boomers keep up with the toys, most keep up only to a point.
As for boomers’ kids, they aren’t kids anymore. They’re adults, and they have careers, own homes, buy cars—and still play video games. They and the digital age grew up together. Innovation is something they take in stride. They have small children of their own to whom technology is second nature. It’s not unusual to see a toddler trying hard to be patient while showing a senior how to use a feature on a smartphone or tablet.
That last point is worth pondering. Those of us who make our living unleashing technology on an unsuspecting world need to exercise empathy for those coming to it cold. The older those coming to it cold happen to be, the more empathy we’ll need to exercise.
The takeaway is that apps must be designed so that anyone, not just those fluent in the latest technology, can tell at a glance how to use them.
Otherwise, you may unwittingly limit your market to families who happen to have a toddler in the home whom they can consult.