This week, Adweek debuted its first-ever Adweek 100: Fastest Growing Agencies list. We’re excited to share that AMP made it! Comprised of organizations from around the world, this select list celebrates agencies of all sizes who have achieved significant financial growth over the past three years and whose industry presence is on the rise. Doug Zanger, Adweek senior editor for creativity and agencies, shared, “We are thrilled to be presenting this honor to a wide range of successful agencies covering 21 different disciplines. From full-service to performance, creative consultancies to experiential, we see a very bright future for agencies and this award is a testament to these award winners’ drive and dedication to the industry.” The Growth That Got Us Here Our growth starts with our people. When our CEO, Gary Colen co-founded AMP in 1994 (headquartered in his garage – true story), we started off as a regional experiential agency focused on engagement with college students and grew to be one of the most respected college activation agencies in the country. Since then, AMP has transformed into an award-winning, digital-first, full-service marketing agency that continues to expand through organic growth and mergers & acquisitions. From our humble beginnings, the agency is now over 300 talented people across our offices in Boston, New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles. We stay tightly connected to our sister agency Adlucent in Austin, TX, a group of 100+ experienced performance marketers that gives us and our partners a competitive edge in ecommerce solutions. The entrepreneurial spirit from our co-founders continues to be a driving force within the agency and fuels our passion to create unconventional ideas that grow brands. That’s why our growth is truly a testament of our people and the platforms created within our company. We’ve been able to attract an amazing staff that’s courageous, collaborative, genuinely curious to explore beyond the status quo and hungry to make a difference. Collectively, we share a continued vision to evolve that keeps us inspired to not only develop new capabilities as an agency, but become a place where marketers can work, learn and lead through many industry transformations. Over the last three years, our development has led to many new strategic partnerships. Gary sums it up best, “Clients come to us because in today’s complex marketing landscape, they need a partner with a radical approach to creativity. We enable small, intensely integrated teams with varied skill sets. Our teams question industry norms, allowing us to connect disparate dots in new, unexpected ways and drive businesses forward.” Our expansion is not growth for the sake of growth. We’re honing in on the evolution of communication channels, leveraging data and advanced measurement capabilities, designing custom experiences, and applying creativity to everything we do while not forgetting the power of an experiential campaign. We’re excited to continue to create strong, groundbreaking work for our clients, take on new brand partnerships and projects throughout the process, and welcome new talent along the way. Now, We’d Like to Say Thank You Being featured on Adweek's list of the 100 Fastest Growing Agencies as an established mid-sized agency with 20 years in the industry is a great accomplishment. We’re very proud. But more importantly, we’re in this game for our clients and helping them deliver. It’s the trust and confidence these partnerships have put into our capabilities that has catapulted us into the agency we are today, and for that, we could not be more grateful. Thank you to every client who has supported us, both since our founding in 1994 and throughout these past three years. Looking back at how much our agency has grown, we could not be more proud. And when it comes to looking toward where we’re headed, all we can say is: we’re amped.
HubSpot’s INBOUND 2019 conference has come and gone, and the event has grown in size with over 26,000 marketers, salespeople, and customer success professionals flocking to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for a week of learning and inspiration. This year’s INBOUND featured spotlight sessions from industry leaders Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Redditt, Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, and of course HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah among several others. After sitting through hours of inspiring sessions, here are three of my most important takeaways from INBOUND 2019. 1. Embrace diversity. 2. Create a frictionless customer experience. 3. Be human. Embrace Diversity Diversity is an important topic of conversation across almost every industry, which was evident at this year’s INBOUND. In Dharmesh Shah’s presentation, he showed an image that displayed the lack of educational diversity at HubSpot in the early stage of the company, and further commented on how he was the only non-white team member. With so many similar people, he reflected that outsiders interested in joining HubSpot would have had a hard time fitting in. He expressed that one of HubSpot’s biggest early mistakes was how little they focused on diversity. When you lack diversity, you’re missing out on varying perspectives that can help lead your company to greater success and growth. To prove this, Shah told the story about when YouTube first launched their global app, they came across a peculiar phenomenon. They noticed that a notable amount of people were uploading videos upside down. Around 10% of videos were being uploaded upside down, and they couldn't figure out why. The answer, however, was very simple. Ten percent of the population is left-handed, and hold their phones differently than right-handed individuals, making the videos appear upside down. You may ask, why didn’t the YouTube team catch this? Again a simple answer: nobody on the team was left-handed, therefore they lacked that perspective. Shah went on to explain that companies hiring for diversity over “personality fit” are at an advantage. Hiring for personality fit breeds a sea of sameness. Instead, when differing yet complementary people intersect, we build better relationships and therefore better companies. We’re able to gain insight into perspectives different from our own and create something great from our differences. Create a Frictionless Customer Experience In such a crowded modern market place, it’s harder than ever before to stand out from your competition. This has led to a growing number of companies emerging as disruptors in their industry, including Doordash, Netflix, and Lyft. Unlike in the past, these companies aren’t your normal tech disruptors like Google, Apple, and Tesla. HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan refers to them instead as “Experience Disruptors”. What makes a company an experience disruptor you may ask? According to Halligan, the new breed of disruptors focus on experience-market fit rather than product-market fit. What that means is that these disruptors all have great products but an even better customer experience. Five year old Carvana set out to create a whole new way to buy a car and have already become one of the largest car dealers in the United States. What do they do differently from their competition? They take the hassle out of car shopping. Customers are able to go online, shop for the car they’re looking for and order it online. Carvana will even take care of the boring paperwork, registration, and taxes, while you wait at home for your new car that will arrive at the time and place of your choosing. Sounds risky buying a car online right? Not with Carvana. You have seven days of driving to see if the car is a fit for you and if not, you can simply return the car no questions asked. So to Halligan’s point, Carvana and other experience disruptors don’t always have the best product, but what they do have is a frictionless customer experience that makes the customer’s life easier and encourages them to come back for more. How they sell to the consumer is why they win and is why they’ll continue to grow until the competition catches up. Be Human There was one prominent theme throughout INBOUND that many of the spotlight speakers touched upon in one way or another. That theme is that being a humane person can go a long way. That should come as no surprise, but in the business world that isn’t always the case. Keep reading to find out what some of the industry leading speakers had to say about the topic. Fighting for Paid Family Leave Ohanian spent most of his spotlight session discussing paid family leave. He has made it his goal to fight for equal parental leave for both men and women in an effort to erase the negative stigma of taking time off after having a child. That is why Reddit offers four months of paid family leave for all of their employees including Ohanian himself who took four months of family leave when his wife, tennis legend Serena Williams, gave birth to their first child. Reddit’s policy allows all employees, no matter their position, to spend time with their family without having to choose between returning to work early or losing their job. Shifting Perspectives Through Advocacy Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. His story that stuck with me the most was about a prison guard who harassed Stevenson due to the color of his skin when he tried to visit a client he was representing at the prison. He made Stevenson’s typically friction-less lawyer check-in process intentionally long and degrading, including an unusual request for Stevenson’s bar card and a strip search. The next time he saw the guard was from across the courtroom, while he represented his client suffering from mental illness who had lived in 29 foster homes by the time he was nine years old. . When Stevenson returned to the prison to visit his client, the same guard was working, but this time something was different about him. To Stevenson’s surprise, the guard allowed Stevenson to enter the prison with no issues. With his hands shaking and face flushed, the guard told Stevenson that he had also been in a number of foster homes growing up. He said, “At the courthouse, I was listening to you. I think what you’re doing is a good thing. I hope you keep fighting for justice.” Stevenson’s message was clear. Although we have our differences, Stevenson urged the audience not to give up on the hope that people have the ability to change for the better and connect on a human level. Creating Access Founder and CEO of Khan Academy, Sal Khan shared some remarkable background about his company and how it has come to provide free online learning tools to more than 62 million users in 190 countries across the world. In what started as a fun project to help tutor his cousins, Khan quickly realized the full potential of Khan Academy, which led to him quitting his job at a hedge fund to work on building his nonprofit full time. His mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. He shared stories from across the world of how his platform is helping people of all ages and backgrounds.From a young girl in an orphanage in Mongolia to the children of Bill Gates --they all have the same tools to learn with Khan Academy. INBOUND 2019 already has us looking forward to INBOUND 2020. We’ll see you there.
The Strategy team at AMP is on a mission to better understand marketers’ most sought-after consumer segments. Each week, individuals from these segments take over @AMP_Agency Instagram stories to give us a peek into their world as part of our digital ethnography series, “Through Their Eyes.” Throughout June and July, we focused on millennials who are in the midst of planning their weddings and saw the world from the perspective of Jillian from Allentown, PA, Casey from Chicago, and Haley and John from Boston. As marketers, we frequently consider how to reach and resonate with our audiences during times of pivotal life moments. This month, we decided to focus on the time leading up to what is often considered to be the “most important day of your life” – your wedding day. How are engaged millennials posting on their Instagram Stories during this time? What do they consider to be the elements of their day worth showcasing? Keep reading to find out. The way to the heart is still through the stomach Yes, learning to co-manage meal routines is integral to cohabitating (see our earlier Grocery Diaries reflection for more here), but our participants’ Stories also reminded us that sharing meals together is still the perfect setting for creating memories as a couple. Food is especially important to Haley and John, as they met at culinary school, and their Stories showed the small ways in which food helps them “play house” as a couple and demonstrate their care for one another: John made Haley breakfast, while Haley texted John a photo of the quiche she was making for him in turn later that day. Food also plays a role beyond the day-to-day drudgery, as we saw Jillian and her fiancé’s spread at a taco date night, as well as Casey and her fiancé posing at the dinner table during their friend’s wedding reception. The New York Times understands the hecticness of this time in fiancés’ lives and the power of food to force a couple to slow down and enjoy each other – in their robust How to Plan a Wedding guide, they even go so far as to instruct the reader to take a break from wedding plan and go on a date. There’s opportunity for brands in relevant industries like food, restaurant, and grocery to remind millennials at the wedding planning stage that they deserve a break. Food is love: (L to R) John cooks Haley breakfast, Jillian enjoys date night, and Casey poses at the dinner table during her friend’s wedding reception. Everyone else in their life is getting married and having babies too While culture likes to romanticize weddings as a time to completely celebrate oneself and one’s partner, in reality this time is extra stressful because fiancés aren’t just planning their own affairs – they’re spending considerable time and money attending and participating in their millennial friends’ similar milestones and events. While the average wedding in 2019 cost almost $39,000, nearly 20% of millennials say they’ve also spent $1,000+ to attend a friend’s wedding. In fact, our soon-to-be-Mrs. Casey, chose to take over our Story on a day when she was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. We followed as she got ready (in matching wedding tribe tees), put on her bridesmaid dress, and enjoyed the beautiful venue. While it was undoubtedly a day filled with love and memories, we were reminded that in an already financially-stressful time, wedding expenses go beyond those for a bride and groom’s own big day. While financial tools like Ellevest for wealth management or The Knot for wedding planning help fiancés save for a wedding and keep an event budget, brands like these could expand their offerings by helping millennials also account for the money they need to save in order to participate in friends’ celebrations in the same time period. While planning their own weddings, brides and grooms may also be participating in – and budgeting for – friends’ marital events. Every fun wedding extra, like Bride Tribe t-shirts, should be factored into budgets for brides, grooms, and members of the wedding party. “I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!” At the end of the day, our Millennial Fiancés warmed our hearts. (And maybe that’s because of the prolific use of heart emojis, gifs, and stickers they used on their Stories.) By following the days of Jillian, Casey, and Haley and John, one couldn’t help but sense the wave of positive energy that comes over an engaged couple during this exciting time in their lives. And while the “big” moments, like Jillian’s wedding band shopping, surely set off a surge of emotion, Instagram Stories also continues to be an arena for sharing all the “small” details that might make a fiancé smile when spending the day with the one they love, like Jillian taking her partner to the site of her childhood summer camp, or Haley driving John to work. When brands speak with millennials, who are likely in the midst of major life events, they shouldn’t forget utilizing imagery and copy that also celebrates everyday life and the small moments that make it all worth it. Don’t forget the small stuff: While Instagram is of course ideal for posting about big milestones, like Jillian’s wedding band shopping (L), you can also feel couples’ excitement as they experience “regular” days with their partner.
The 21st century food shopping experience is all about efficiently streamlining tasks. This is evident not just through significant investments in eCommerce, but also through the rise in delivery service offerings. Online food delivery is booming in particular — the number of Americans who have ordered food online has grown from 17 to 24 percent in the past year. With so many options available, I grew curious about the details differentiating each app’s respective shopping experience. I decided to order from a different app each day for four days, journaling my thoughts while munching on salad one day and sipping soup the next. Convenience means comfort — especially for online food delivery It was a Wednesday night, and I had ordered a soup from my favorite restaurant, eager to maximize my comfiness after a tiring day. After two respective days of UberEats and Postmates, I had settled into a pleasant routine of online food ordering. When I saw that my “Dasher” (of the DoorDash app) had arrived, I summoned up the strength to pause my show, leave my couch, and walk to the door. After receiving my food, I collapsed back on the couch. Upon opening the bag, however, I was disappointed to find that there was no spoon for my soup. I sighed, paused Mad Men, turned on the lights, and made my way to the kitchen. I thought back. Did I forget to indicate that I wanted utensils? Was there a field that suggested including them? Perhaps an “add note” section? Pictured: my squash soup and the accompanying slices of bread. Peeking out in the top right is the infamous spoon from my kitchen. Brand takeaway: My primary reason for ordering food delivery wasn’t just about convenience - I had a vision of curling up in front of a show in my pajamas, and treating myself to minimal movement and maximal indulgence. While the spoon debacle wasn’t catastrophic, it interrupted that vision. If delivery services can identify the true need-states they fulfil, they can better cater to them — and ensure that shoppers have the most seamless ordering experience as possible. Trusting tech is hard. Inputting one’s preferences on an app — without any human interaction — leaves room for doubt. What if the kitchen messes up my order or the app glitches? What if the driver doesn’t get my note to come up to the 8th floor of my office building? I sat in my office’s lobby, this last question lingering in my mind. I saw on the Postmates tracking system that my driver was “here,” but I didn’t see him. Did my Postmate leave the food in the downstairs lobby? Was he in the elevator? Was he waiting for me to meet him outside? After a few minutes, I gave up, went down 8 floors, and saw my food waiting for me at the front desk. The receipt taped to my salad didn’t have the full address I wrote in the app, which included “AMP Agency, 8th floor.” Brand takeaway: Two-way communication is key. As technologically advanced as today’s shopping experience is, there’s always room for error when relaying information. Shoppers will naturally worry about an app acting as a middleman between them and their food. To lessen this worry delivery services can assure the shopper that their unique details have been “seen” by their driver, maybe even sending them a notification of a “read receipt.” It feels good to feel heard. Scrolling through DoorDash’s restaurant options, I hoped to see the bahn mi sandwich cafe just a couple miles away. I searched for “Vietnamese.” It appeared, alongside a button that said “request,” suggesting an option to add the restaurant to DoorDash’s offerings. Wow, I thought. They care about what I want! A screenshot of me single-handedly bettering Boston’s bahn mi delivery scene. Brand takeaway: No reasonable customer expects for a food delivery app to mirror their every preference. A small gesture that acknowledges a shopper’s wants (accompanied with the hope of fulfilling them), validates the shopper. This subtle approach to customer satisfaction allows the shopper to feel both that their opinion matters, and that the app genuinely wishes to improve its service. Superlatives Like many consumers, I honed my preferences by trying multiple services. I like to think that I’m now qualified enough to assign (subjective) superlatives to each app’s respective customer experience. Best delivery time predictor: UberEats Of all the apps, UberEats was the only one that didn’t adjust its delivery time, estimating the total cooking and delivery time very well. Would recommend for squeezing meals in between meetings. Best first-delivery perks: Doordash I still don’t understand whether I stumbled upon some month-of-July promotion or if the first delivery fee is always waived. Regardless, my frugal self was pleased at this opportunity to save some money. Best notification experience: Grubhub While some apps blasted my phone with notifications via app, email, and text, Grubhub let me manually input how I wished to be notified upon arrival of my food. I typed “please call when you’re outside” and my request was fulfilled. A blank canvas for notification preferences Best delivery flexibility: Postmates Free delivery if I join a “party?” By. All. Means. Postmates’s “party” option allows one’s delivery to be pooled with others in the area. The catch: delivery time could be as long as an hour. Without pressing appointments, party-ing is a lovely option to save on delivery costs. Extrovert, introvert, dancer – or not – Postmates has a “party” for all. Most likely to use again: UberEats A delivery fee cheaper than others, many restaurant options, and a familiar GPS format (I take the occasional Uber, so I’m biased), UberEats is my food delivery app of choice. Bonus perks: The UberRewards program. With every eligible meal and Uber ride, I get points that I can use for either.
Confession: I am a Fitting Roomer. I read this fashion industry term recently in a swirl of shame as the article identified my exact online shopping behavior: buying multiple sizes in an item with the intent to try them on at home, keep the one that fits, and return the others. My entire spring/summer wardrobe was purchased online, with at least 50% returned. I could hear the fashion execs whispering tsk tsk in my ear, admonishing me for what some have called the ticking time bomb of costly retail returns. Apparently we Fitting Roomers are terrible for the bottom line. We’re taking advantage of the system. Amazon has even banned the most extreme habitual returners, identifying us as bad for business. Except we’re not. E-commerce fashion is a $545 billion industry and growing. This growth is fueled by convenience including the ability to return: 88% of online shoppers appreciate shopping day or night and easily finding products. And free shipping and returns are the top factors making people more likely to shop online. Without a good shipping and return policy, retailers lose a huge chunk of sales. Because here’s the thing. Shopping for clothes online isn’t like shopping for other goods. It’s not just the quality that matters, or that items are true to their online representation. You may receive a beautiful blouse in the mail that every bit lives up to its description and photo, but when you put it on you happen to look more frumpy than sophisticated. Those amazingly edgy, high quality jeans might be the epitome of your personal style, but they also just might squeeze you in all the wrong places. The top two reasons for online returns are “size too small,” and “size too large.” In other words, a key part of what drives apparel purchase is how the clothes fit on your body. It’s why every brick-and-mortar retail location has dressing rooms. With clothes, you need to try before you buy. So when considering the state of online returns, retailers are making one fatal mistake. They’re thinking of online returns as a follow-up to the buying process, when in fact they’re part of the shopping process. We Fitting Roomers don’t think of paying for multiple sizes online as akin to buying and returning. We think of it as a sort of refundable deposit to try on clothes we haven’t committed to yet. Fitting Roomers aren’t taking advantage of the system. They’re showing brands what an online shopping process looks like when you need to try before you buy. Andrew Bowden, Sr. Manager of Product Marketing at TradeGecko, an inventory management software company, understands that for brands to avoid getting gouged by growing customer return habits, they need to think of it as part of the larger experience. “The most important question to ask when assessing your reverse logistics process,” he recently told Shopify, “is whether or not you’re designing and optimizing the experience for the customer or your business — ideally it’s a mix of both. When in doubt, default to the customer.” Instead of punishing or dissuading the shopping behavior of fitting rooming, why not embrace it? What would the online retail customer experience look like if we shift the way we think of fitting rooming from a “return” to a “try-on?” Some are already doing this. Digitally native direct-to-consumer brands like ThirdLove and MM La Fleur have redefined the experience to embrace how the need to try on shapes a shopping journey. ThirdLove is so focused on fit, they incorporate an in-depth fit quiz before purchase and let customers return bras even after they’ve already been worn and put through the laundry. While I was trying on my new bra at home, I texted with a ThirdLove “Fit Stylist” for a new size recommendation. When I needed a new style, she provided the most seamless repackaging/shipping logistics I’ve encountered. Knowing this, I’m guessing they have an air-tight reverse logistics process built for efficiency and minimal cost, too. Over the last six months I’ve returned two bras. But I’ve kept five - and become a serial repeat customer. That’s a big deal when repeat purchases are the aim of a whopping 83% of shopping journeys. Digitally native DTC brands like MM La Fleur and ThirdLove build their retail customer experience to accommodate the need to find the perfect fit. It’s the more traditional retail brands that haven’t quite figured this out yet. Their struggle with the cost of returns leaves you guessing on how an item looks on a real body, receiving multiple packages that can’t be re-used, being charged extra fees, and printing labels. These brands look at Fitting Roomers as a problem to be combatted, but brands and customers both win if we shift how we perceive the role of returns in the online shopping journey. Because at the end of the day, we Fitting Roomers are not serial returners. We’re just online shoppers. Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy AMP is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. This article is a part of AMP’s Customer Experience deep-dive series, where we take a first person approach to understanding the modern shopping experience.
Following a successful four-year stint at Columbia Sportswear, where he led all brand design efforts within marketing, Dan Richards has landed a new role as Group Creative Director at AMP Agency. At Columbia, Richards directed a robust team of designers, project managers, photographers, videographers and production designers, re-designed Columbia’s retail experience, and oversaw many additional seasonal global marketing initiatives. Richards will lead the AMP Seattle office’s creative and production studios, contribute to the agency’s thought leadership, while developing an updated creative approach to new business, and widening the firm’s experiential marketing opportunities. Richards, who is no stranger to fashion, outdoor and sports lifestyle brands, has already made an immediate impact at AMP Agency - his first assignment was to lead the creative, production and amplification teams throughout the RFP process for an assignment dedicated to Eddie Bauer’s 100th Anniversary, which will be celebrated in 2020. Richards and AMP Agency earned the title of Eddie Bauer’s 100th Anniversary AOR for the 18-month long experiential campaign that will debut in Q4 of 2019. "We believe brands that design better customer experiences lead the world in business performance,” said Gary Colen, CEO AMP Agency. “Dan’s experience matches perfectly with AMP Seattle’s expertise in creating immersive customer journeys that deliver exceptional brand experiences. His talents are core to heart of AMP Agency and he’s already shown that with team’s recent win of Eddie Bauer’s upcoming 100th Anniversary campaign.” “I’m thrilled to be a part of the AMP Agency family, which is an incredibly talented team comprised of thinkers, makers and amplifiers, and I’m excited at the chance to build even stronger connections, through experiential marketing, for our clients and their consumers,” said Richards. “It’s already been an amazing experience; within my first month I had the opportunity to work on RFPs and projects for brands including Eddie Bauer, Walmart, PUMA and The UPS Store, which is a wonderful way to establish our client base.” Throughout his career, Richards has earned a reputation for being a passionate, creative leader who excels at being a swell guy and, in his spare time, an avid birdwatcher. He is equally capable of designing a project from start to finish or directing a team to realize his vision. He leads with enthusiasm and thoughtfulness, creating strategies and outcomes that are bold and unexpected. Richards is also an expert diplomat. Able to broker solutions that satisfy business needs without compromising the intangibles that make design powerful. Former clients of Richards includes: Nike, ESPN, Dr. Martens, Adidas, Starbucks, Target, Columbia Sportswear, Sorel, Keen Footwear, GoLite, Reebok, Microsoft, Camelback, Yakima.
Our own Doug Grumet, SVP of Media & Analytics, was recently interviewed for eMarketer’s latest report on Digital Ad Spending by Industry by Ross Benes. The report analyzes digital ad spending from three countries and details fascinating findings, like that US digital ad spending will reach $129.34 billion in 2019, up 19.1% from last year. Doug spoke with Ross in depth about the shifting media landscape of the largest industries and how AMP Agency is adapting with the trends to drive greater efficiency and a stronger customer experience. In the report, Doug shares, “Our retail and CPG clients are very active in mobile. The rationale there is around bridging the offline and online worlds. Can I leverage mobile as a retailer or as a CPG brand to either push brick-and-mortar or pull people into the ecommerce funnel?” Check out the full report from eMarketer here: https://www.emarketer.com/content/digital-ad-spending-by-industry-2019
Buying and preparing food is a huge part of most of our lives and routines. Almost everybody grocery shops – but not everyone shops the same. Strategists Jen Herbert and Greer Pearce recorded grocery diaries for a month and sat down to compare notes on the modern grocery experience. LIFE STAGES SHIFT FOOD ROUTINES Greer: Jen and I are in different life stages, and one of our big takeaways was not just that our shopping routines are different, but that changes in our lives have acted as triggers for a whole new food routine. Marketers have known for a long time that there are some brief periods in a person’s life when routines are disrupted and shopping patterns are open to change, and we saw that play out clearly in our own lives. When Jen moved in with her partner, Jason, grocery shopping became a team effort. She had to start coordinating weeknight schedules and planning differently. They shop together, so the actual shopping experience became more fun: they make funny faces at each other in the produce section and gamify splitting up the items in their cart at checkout to try and get as close to possible to a perfectly split bill. When I had a baby last year, I also got a new shopping partner – my son, Teddy. Pre-shopping trip, that meant planning more carefully so I could get in and out of the store faster, and new items on our list as he started to eat solid foods. In-store, it meant less time looking at labels or new products, and more time solving the puzzle of how to physically shop with him, a tiny human either taking up most of the cart in his car seat, strapped to my body, or trying to escape from the child seat. These new routines are markedly different from how both Jen and I shopped as single young professionals, when we made more, smaller trips to the store and only bought food for one. Brand Takeaway: Consumers need different things at different life stages, and there are multiple phases when they’re actively adjusting their routine. Meet them in the moment to offer them solutions specific to their needs. Life stage shapes how people shop. Jen and her partner shop together and gamify their routine to make it more fun. Greer looks for items that will distract her toddler. GROCERY SHOPPING STARTS BEFORE THE GROCERY STORE Jen: What Greer and I came to appreciate as we traded our grocery stories was just how much effort we both spend on “pre-work” before ever stepping foot in-store. Before a list can be constructed, we both meal plan our future dinners, but our sources for drawing meal inspiration are very different. Greer knows that her family will be home and in need of dinners every night of the week. She sits down and plans each of those seven meals, surrounded by her go-to resources: three favorite cookbooks, the New York Times, and Bon Appetit’s online recipes. Meanwhile, Jason and I start meal planning by assessing when we’ll both be home – these are nights when it feels “worth it” to invest time in a homemade dinner. Then, we’ll scan the fridge to see if anything is in need of repurposing, which will often spark a meal idea. In the warmer months, we’ll also check the weather – if there are sunny days ahead, we’ll grill. If we’re still stuck, I’ll head to my Saved posts on Instagram. (When I see an easy meal idea, I proactively flag it for times like these.) Finally, I’ll do a scan of the house for staples – everything from vitamins to eggs to Kleenex – that we are running low on and should also be added to the list. When we finally arrive in-store, our routines don’t stop. Greer follows the same pattern around her store each time, while I go so far as to “code” my list by the section of the store I’ll find each item in. Brand Takeaway: Going in-store with a clear plan of attack helps the shopping experience run on autopilot, guaranteeing the trip is relatively efficient and even free of in-the-moment decision-making. With that insight, we both agree that well over half of our “grocery experience” actually takes place within our own homes. Consider ways that your brand can build relationships with customers outside of the physical store, when they’re more likely to be in an open, “inspirational” mindset rather than cruising on autopilot. The grocery experience starts with inspiration and preparation. Jen and Jason make a detailed list before heading to the store. SURPRISES MAKE A SHOPPING TRIP BEAUTIFUL Jen: With all that prep-work, what’s in our basket is often dictated by what’s on our lists. But Greer and I also found we welcome pleasant surprises and unplanned ways to treat ourselves. Greer sometimes treats herself to a pretty bouquet of flowers if they catch her eye, or spontaneously grabs swordfish if it looks particularly good. She distinctly remembers being excited one spring when her store’s typically uninspiring produce section had fiddlehead ferns. Jason and I typically “allow” ourselves one or two surprises when we do our weekly shopping. This could be, like Greer, a spontaneous bouquet of flowers, a fancy candy bar or pastry, or a new flavor of protein bar or ice cream (usually one with eye-catching packaging!). Another welcome surprise is when large grocery chains begin carrying beloved brands from the Northeast. Just the other day, we happily discovered coffee from our favorite roastery in Maine, which we typically had to purchase on-vacation or online! It’s moments like this that infuse a trip that could feel like a chore with a sense of fun. Brand Takeaway: Basket-building moments center around beauty and reward. While the idea of grocery shopping is quite beautiful – fresh, colorful produce, nurturing loved ones, etc. – grocery shopping in practice is often anything but. Finding small opportunities to encourage customers to treat themselves to something beautiful is a reward for an accomplished store trip. PROXIMITY ISN’T THE ONLY FACTOR Greer: It seems obvious that where we grocery shop is dictated by where we live, and to some extent this is true. But within a person’s grocery options, several factors might trigger them to buy at one store over another: The List: Jen’s list dictates where she’ll shop that week, and she doesn’t decide where to shop until it’s complete. If the recipe’s she’s making calls for hard-to-find produce, or she’s craving the fancy yogurt she likes, she’ll drive a little farther to get to a store where she knows she can find what she needs. Physical size of items: Greer gets all her bulky items like diapers, paper towels, dog food, and toilet paper via Amazon so she can avoid carrying heavy items home from a physical store. Price: Both Jen and Greer have price compared the stores in their area, and make the less expensive store their go-to for staples. In-store experience: Both Jen and Greer sometimes go out of their way to find an experience that offers elements of fun, beauty, and excitement. “Type” of grocery visit: Different grocery occasions call for different stores. Greer does her weekly, well planned trips to one store, but goes to a smaller, closer store for an unplanned mid-week trip. Season: In the summer, both Jen and Greer completely switch up their routines to incorporate farmers markets and CSAs where they can get fresh local produce. This means less trips to the grocery store overall, and meal planning driven by in-season items. Brand Takeaway: The need for food drives a grocery visit, but many factors go into where and how you shop. While shoppers may have a default routine, they are open to deviating from it – or redefining it when it will make their lives easier or more enjoyable. Brands should consider how to meet the needs of multiple types of grocery occasions. AMP is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. This article is a part of AMP’s Customer Experience Deep Dive Blog Series, where we take a first person approach to understanding the modern shopping experience.
The Strategy team at AMP is on a mission to better understand marketers’ most sought-after consumer segments. Each week, individuals from these segments take over @AMP_Agency Instagram stories to give us a peek into their world as part of our digital ethnography series, “Through Their Eyes.” In May we focused on Gen Z college students and saw the world from the perspective of Courtney from Oregon State University, Cortes from California Polytechnic State University, Alexa from UMass Amherst, and Haidar from the University of Rhode Island. Move over, millennials. Marketers’ latest obsession is with Gen Z, the cohort born between 1995 and the early 2010s. You might already know that they’re pragmatic and frugal, multicultural and accepting, and native to the digital world. But we uncovered a few more insights as we followed four college students preparing for finals and the summer ahead... Everyday, they’re hustling Everyday Gen Z is hustling, and we mean that quite literally – a decorative sign with that very motto was spotted in the background of one of Alexa’s posts, next to a Post-It reminder that said, "Harvard Business or Bust.” Follow any one of these individuals around for the day and be prepared to be exhausted. Both Courtney and Cortes found time for workouts between multiple classes, work shifts, and study sessions, while Alexa is on the board of five different clubs and Haidar’s roster of classes as a Global Business Major and Arabic Studies and Engineering double minor is enough to make your head spin. Our team wasn’t surprised to see this given what we’ve read about the generation as a hard working and focused bunch – only 38% think work-life balance is important, compared to 47% of millennials, and 58% say ‘bring it’ to working nights and weekends in exchange for a better salary. No (iced) coffee, no workee While all that hustle is self-driven, it’s apparently also fueled by caffeine – specifically in the form of iced coffee. We couldn’t help but notice that three of our four participants made a point of creating a post specifically in admiration of their respective iced coffees, ‘gramming it beautifully against a flowering bush, decorating their coffee selfies with a “good day today” gif, and even adding Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us” as background music for the post (below). It all made sense, when our research showed that 56% of Gen Z has purchased iced coffee in the past month. They find fun in responsibility We were impressed by Gen Z’s ability to create joy, even during times when duty called. Courtney took her studying outside to a scenic patio. Cortes savored a sparkling coconut water in the sunshine. Alexa got a little sassy with her Stats study guide. And even Haidar, who was busy observing Ramadan during his feature, took a selfie with a friend as they stood in the aisles of a convenience store shoveling down cups of cereal in the early morning hours for Suhur. Despite their exhausting schedules, on-the-go nature, and mountain of responsibilities, Gen Z is clearly able to appreciate and enjoy each moment. In the future, they’ll be looking for workplaces that encourage this outlook as well – 65% of Gen Z look for a “fun” working environment when assessing whether a company culture is a good fit for them.
On the heels of the upfront presentations, there were two major trends that came up time and again this year: Mergers & Streaming. And as has been the case in recent years, each network group took turns touting their ‘scale and brand safety’, while trying to compel the advertisers and agency attendees that their best bet would be to spend their marketing dollars with them instead of their competitors. Mergers and Acquisitions Between ABC/Fox/Disney, Warner/Turner/ATT, and NBCU/Comcast – these massive evolving media conglomerates were front and center during upfront week and were prime targets of the comedians as well. “Because it’s AT&T, the reception will be very bad. Because it’s AT&T, the after-party will only have two bars,” Conan O’Brien joked at the upfront presentation, poking fun at the new parent company of WarnerMedia. It’s becoming harder and harder for these network groups to cover each of their properties in one presentation, but they all tried. Comcast/NBCU were able to cover NBC, Bravo, USA, Oxygen, SyFy, Telemundo, NBC Sports, and E! in just over 90min. Thanks to the Disney acquisition, Fox’s presentation focused only on the network’s primetime programming and sports, since Disney now owns most of their cable properties. And Disney sure had a lot to share. Their 2.5+ hour presentation covered ABC, ESPN, Disney, Freeform, FX, and National Geographic. Turner Media has also been renamed to the aforementioned WarnerMedia. They covered TBS, TNT, TruTV, Cartoon Network / Adult Swim, Bleacher Report, and CNN in a swift hour and 15 minute presentation. What it means The synergies across multiple properties within one network group should allow for more comprehensive cross-property and cross-platform marketing solutions for our clients. Consolidation of ownership is not always a good thing from a competition standpoint. But as a savvy team, we’ll find ways to use these changes to our advantage and leverage our media dollars to secure the best opportunities. Streaming is King Everyone is coming for Netflix. With live TV viewership continuing to decline, networks are looking to where the eyeballs are migrating – streaming services. After proudly touting The Office as the #1 show on Netflix, Linda Yaccarino, Chairman of Advertising and Client Partnerships at NBC Universal, informed the audience that they would soon be launching their own ad-supported service. WarnerMedia made a similar announcement on Wednesday morning – another yet-to-be-named streaming service. CBS and CW also made time in their presentations to discuss their already live services. But the biggest streaming news came out just hours before the Disney/ABC presentation on Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that they had taken full operational control of Hulu by virtue of the extra 30% share they acquired from Fox. With their stake in Hulu, and Disney+, which is expected to rollout in November, Disney is poised to make an impact in the streaming space. What it means This biggest story in the video landscape over the last few years has been the migration from live TV to streaming. There is only a finite number of ratings that networks can sell, and each year that number shrinks. Over the last few years, networks have been pushing budgets towards their full episode players and over-the-top devices to capitalize on these additional impressions. While adaption was slow to take hold, it is now the new norm and is expected to grow over the coming years. Adding this element to media plans is a necessity to keep pace with changing consumption patterns. Remaining Questions and Predictions While the newly formed media-monopolies and their streaming services seemed to generate the most buzz during upfront week, there was plenty more packed into the presentations. Here are some additional big questions that advertisers were left with, and how our team at AMP sees them playing out: How will CBS and ABC be affected by the departure of their biggest shows, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family? There are certainly big holes to fill, but networks are put in this situation every year. CBS will fill their slot with The Unicorn, a new comedy about a widowed father, and ABC will have one more season of Modern Family before they’re forced to fill that slot. How is The Masked Singer a successful show? The Masked Singer had some great lead-ins when it premiered this January, and FOX has been promoting the program heavily. While successful in season one, ratings declined each week, and it would not be surprising to see lackluster numbers for season two as the novelty wears off. Will viewers adapt as TBS veers away from comedy with dramas like Snowpiercer? Snowpiercer seems like a perfect fit for the sister network, TNT alongside Claws and Animal Kingdom, so placing it on TBS is an interesting choice. Viewers may take a little while to adjust, but expect lots of promotion across the old Turner networks. Can CW continue its success in finding younger viewers with more superhero shows (Batgirl), and a Riverdale spinoff (Katy Keene)? CW knows exactly who they are. While not a linear ratings giant, they serve younger audiences well and excel in the FEP space. We expect CW to continue over-performing with the hard to reach younger demographics. The television industry has seen some major changes in the past few years, and buyers have been forced to adapt and evolve. Networks, advertisers, and viewers are all shaking things up and keeping the industry on its toes, creating a media buying landscape that it is constantly changing. We’re excited to see how this all plays out this coming TV season, and we’ll be back at it next year with more trend analyses and predictions for the 2020 season and beyond.