Store closures. Bankruptcy filings. A mall turned ghost town. For nearly a decade, we have been told that brick-and-mortar retail is dying, and have seen the effects with our own eyes. Yet at the same time, digitally native brands are venturing offline. New store concepts are popping up with fresh takes on the in-store experience. Physical retail is in fact making many valiant and creative attempts to adapt rather than succumb to inevitable death. And while industry coverage highlights how businesses hope to profit from their ingenious new take on retail, as I read article after article I was left wondering: what about the customer? So, I set out on an ambitious shopping experiment to test the most innovative ways you can buy a sweater in New York City. What does this innovation feel like for me, in a world where so much of my shopping behavior has moved online? Turns out, my exposure to brands on social media made it almost impossible to aimlessly browse without carrying preconceived notions. With browsing and discovery happening online, brick-and-mortar stores are no longer about “shopping” in the traditional sense – they're about a focused hunt for a specific product or a memorable experience. Naadam: The Fast Transaction Store Naadam has two stores in NYC: “The $75 Sweater Store,” which only sells the brand’s iconic $75 cashmere sweater (or, as Glossy calls it, a “hero product”), and another store ten blocks away which offers the larger collection of apparel. I visited both stores, and purchased from the former. At “The $75 Sweater Store,” my shopping experience was efficient: the store was the size of a hallway, there were three clothing racks with the $75 sweaters hanging, one dressing room, and one largely-silent sales associate. While I wouldn’t call it “shopping” – there was no thrill of combing through racks – the transaction was refreshing in its own way. As I had already been exposed to the sweater online, I knew what I wanted and my time in-store simply felt like I was running an errand to pick it up – confirming through touch and a quick try-on that what I had seen online was indeed what I wanted to purchase. For this reason, it makes sense why the store experiences are separated – one drives the quick and easy sale, while the other promotes discovery and a deeper relationship with the brand. Top: “These are seventy five dollar cashmere sweaters” - the neon sign at Naadam’s “The $75 Sweater Store” ensures their store concept is crystal clear; Bottom: My ($75) sweater purchase, wrapped in paper printed with the care instructions. Modcloth: The Stylist Store Modcloth’s physical locations are branded as “FitShops,” where customers work with stylists to pick and try on outfits and then have them shipped home. From an operational perspective, this is ideal – because associates don’t need to house and manage inventory, the brand can rent much smaller retail locations, and associates can exercise their talents in styling customers rather than sorting product. While I was there, I witnessed a stylist speaking with a woman who wasn’t sure if an item she was trying on was flattering. The stylist was holding a tablet open to modcloth.com, and was showing the shopper other similar styles to consider. This level of one-on-one attention is working – Modcloth customers using stylists are currently converting at 90%, compared to around 25% for those who don’t. While I myself didn’t end purchasing anything, my willingness to visit again definitely increased – Modcloth’s ability to seamlessly weave in-person interaction with the benefits of ecommerce felt like a value-add that could never be achieved by simply shopping from my couch. Prompts throughout the dressing room encourage shoppers to book appointments with stylists, from providing the booking URL as a sticker on the mirror (Top) to coupon cards offering 15% off all purchases when you book (Bottom). Lingua Franca: The Courageous Customizer The hand-stitched cashmere sweater company Lingua Franca has found their niche in stitching custom phrases, especially liberal political statements (e.g. “Bad hombre” and “Blessed be the refugees”). I was visiting the store to make a statement of my own, planning on designing a sweater with one of the brand’s more popular phrases, “I miss Barack,” in the colors of my choosing. Before arrival, I was unsure whether the store was built with customization in mind, but I was pleasantly surprised to experience intense collaboration and interactivity. It was a true team process as the associate pulled sizes for me to try and brought photos up online to help me envision various sweater color / thread color combinations. Lingua Franca is so clear about who they are and what they believe in as a brand. And due to a made-to-order business model with sweaters as the hero, the store, like Naadam’s “The $75 Sweater Store” or Modcloth, is fairly easy to operate. They can instead turn the space into a little jewel box for declaring their brand identity and building relationships. As a customer, I felt like I was joining a tribe of like-minded individuals while also enjoying the satisfaction of a personalized piece. Top: A corner of the Lingua Franca store; Middle: thread is laid out and customers are provided with a card of popular phrases to help with customization; Bottom: My sweater arrives at home. Showfields: An Experience to Instagram I had to conclude my sweater excursion with a trip to Showfields, after reading an article declaring it “the department store of the future.” Showfields describes themselves as “the most interesting store in the world” and “an immersive theater experience that bridges art and retail.” To be honest, the mystical vagueness of it all made me a little nervous. While there, I walked through various conjoining spaces, each temporarily owned by a brand and beautifully decorated with the help of Showfields to tell that brand’s story – Boodles Gin and Book of the Month created a library lounge area, and DTC toilet paper brand No. 2 took over the public restrooms (naturally.) It all felt a bit awkward and confusing. My mind raced with questions such as, Am I allowed to touch everything? (Yes.) Where do I try stuff on? (The one fitting room, disguised to look like a shipping container.) How do you pay? (Approach one of the associates/docents who check you out on the spot using a mobile device.) It looks like I’m the only one actually shopping – how in the world does Showfields make money? (Brands pay $4000+/month for the exposure, without much expectation of actually selling anything.) I eye-rolled a lot, stopped in a few corners to take photos, and seemed to be the only person around who bought anything – in a space that was seemingly built for Instagramming, I ultimately felt uncomfortable making my purchase. Top: One of the brand’s spaces, produced to look like a bodega; Middle: One of the many corners seemingly designed for Instagramming; Bottom: My purchase, a sweater with a print of two romantic robots In the words of President Lincoln, four stores and several sweaters ago… If online shopping has evolved in-person shopping into a focused hunt for a specific product or memorable experience, three things need to happen: The brick and mortar concept must be unique and play a clear role or provide specific value to shoppers that they couldn’t get at home. Brands must then use their digital marketing channels to set clear expectations of what the store experience will be like, build excitement for that experience, and drive foot traffic. Ecommerce, digital marketing, and physical retail must continue working together to learn and optimize towards the most positive customer experience possible. Ultimately, retailers need to ensure that their brand personality shines through their store concept. By thinking of the space as a magnet that will attract and build relationships with “on brand” consumers, it expands the definition of a “store” from a place that encourages a sale, into a marketing platform that ultimately helps visitors align themselves with a brand and its values as they search for, Snapchat, and shop the space.
In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for December 2019. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. ‘Tis The Season For Holidays and Impeachment December had a large number of queries that reached the 10+ million mark. The majority of the phrases were relevant to the time of year, particularly about the end of the year. Here are the top queried phrases of the month: Impeachment - Dec. 18th - 10 Million+ queries Winter season - Dec. 21st - 10 Million+ queries Holiday season - Dec. 23rd - 10 Million+ queries New Year’s Eve - Dec. 30th - 10 Million+ queries New Year’s Day Dec. 31st - 10 Million+ queries With the exception of the query about the president’s impeachment, all of the phrases above were initiated by Google Doodles. It’s interesting to think about the possibilities for a brand or company to get into the search results that these Doodles trigger. Since these are Doodles that Google produces every year, is there a strategy to get a piece of content that’s relevant to the season into Google’s news carousel? The other 10 million+ queries were as follows: Camille Claudel - Dec. 7th - 10 Million+ queries Juice WRLD - Dec. 8th - 10 Million+ queries Clemson vs Ohio State - Dec. 27th - 10 Million+ queries Like the majority of the aforementioned queries, Camille Claudel was the subject of a Google Doodle. As for the other two queries, both were driven by current events. The passing of American rapper, singer, and songwriter Juice WRLD drove users to query his name, while the college football game between Clemson and Ohio State became a top keyword phrase in December. The Search for the Perfect Gift Continues Shopping around the holidays drove queries in December. Like we saw in November 2019, brand names became keywords for people looking for deals. Since Thanksgiving happened late this year, Cyber Monday occurred on the first Monday of December. Take a look at some of the phrases that made the top 3 queries: Cyber Monday 2019 - Dec. 1st - 5 Million+ queries Target Cyber Monday - Dec. 1st - 1 Million+ queries Best Cyber Monday deals - Dec. 2nd - 500,000+ queries Santa Tracker - Dec. 23rd - 5 Million+ queries Dollar General - Dec. 24th - 1 Million+ queries McDonald’s - Dec. 24th - 1 Million+ queries Walmart hours Christmas eve - Dec. 24th - 500,000+ queries Bath and Body Works - Dec. 26th - 500,000+ queries At the beginning of the month, Cyber Monday drove people to search for gifts that had a discounted price or special incentive. As the days neared Christmas, people's desire to know where Santa was in the world inspired searches for an online tracker of his every move. Meanwhile, a good portion of the population could be seen searching for a quick bite to eat on Christmas Eve as they worked up an appetite shopping for last minute gifts and stocking stuffers. Sports Related Phrases Still Rule Of the 93 phrases we collected in December, 45 of them were sports-related. The subject of Gridiron Football – both collegiate and professional – makes up most of the queries, but it’s worth noting that queries related to the other football also made the list in December: Monterrey vs Liverpool - Dec. 17th - 500,000+ queries Premier League - Dec. 26th - 500,000+ queries It’s important to note that December wasn’t the only month where European soccer terms broke through to the top 3 queries of the day as reported by Google Trends for the US. We still believe these types of queries are driven by people who are checking the score of the game, but it’s interesting to see that the interest is high for a sport being played across the ocean. Other Top Queries By Category As we record queries, we categorize them by subject matter. Here are some of the top phrases by category: Entertainment December saw Star Wars at the center of the searchable universe with both the film and the TV series making up some of the top phrases in Entertainment: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Dec. 17th - 1 Million+ queries Mandalorian - Dec. 27th - 1 Million+ queries Technology One December 4th, Spotify wrapped up the year –and the entire decade, for that matter – by launching data related to each user’s listening habits over the past ten years. Spotify Wrapped - Dec. 4th - 2 Million+ queries We thought the timing of this release was strategic since there is so much attention given to shopping and the holidays. For Spotify to roll out their Wrapped insights after Cyber Monday and before New Year’s, they were able to maximize the attention they got for it. Politics With the exception of Kamala Harris dropping out of the presidential race, the rest of the political queries in December were related to the impeachment hearings, including the phrase “impeachment” that happened two weeks before the vote occurred: Kamala Harris - Dec. 3rd - 1 Million+ queries Jonathan Turley - Dec. 4th - 1 Million+ queries Nancy Pelosi - Dec. 4th - 200,000+ queries Impeachment - Dec. 4th - 500,000+ queries Gaming The subject of gaming gets queries and we have seen them show up as popular queries from month to month. Generally, a new game release triggers the query. This past month in particular, the Game Awards occurred and won themselves two spots of the top 3 queries on December 12th. Xbox Series X - Dec. 12th - 1 Million+ queries Game Awards 2019 - Dec. 12th - 500,000+ queries As we wrap up another year and kickstart a brand new decade, we look forward to seeing what the trending queries are for the future. See you next month!
In 2019, the Strategy team at AMP went on a mission to better understand marketers’ most sought-after consumer segments. Each week, individuals from these segments took over @AMP_Agency Instagram stories to give us a peek into their world as part of our digital ethnography series, “Through Their Eyes.” To wrap up the series, we took the opportunity to celebrate different cultures, and saw Thanksgiving from the perspective of Alicia’s family, from Guangzhou in China, Dana’s family, from Calabria in Italy, and Andronaelle’s family, from Les Cayes in Haiti. If you surveyed all Americans and asked them what the most American holiday was, our bets are on either the Fourth of July – naturally, it’s our birthday – or Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a celebration of the most American Americanisms: apple pie, lively family debates, and the NFL. Yet, we must not forget that our country is projected to be “minority white” within the next 25 years, and the very definition of what it means to be American looks quite different depending on who you ask. So, on the day that maxes out on all things America, we decided to celebrate what might be the most American Americanism of all: our diversity and our rich, beautiful variety of cultural traditions. We encountered mouth-watering food. While all of our participants still made a turkey, there was also incredible, delectable variety in the accompanying dishes served. Alicia’s family ate prime rib, grilled octopus, and steamed shrimp. Dana’s family had salad with homemade vinegar and drank homemade wine, and Andronaelle’s family had mac and cheese as well as traditional black rice. Top to Bottom: Alicia’s mom made comforting doughy rice ball soup; Andronaelle’s auntie utilized traditional Haitian seasonings in all dishes; Dana’s family tossed salad in homemade vinegar. Matriarchs were celebrated. All of our participants took time in their Instagram Stories to honor the matriarch of the family. Alicia’s family made sure to cook their grandmother’s favorite dish, pork knuckle and lotus stew. Andronaelle wrote about her Auntie Marie, “the matriarch and the best cook in the family,” and many of Dana’s Stories featured her nonna, who kept busy peeling potatoes, greeting guests, and playing games. (We’ll get to the games below!) Top to Bottom: Alicia’s family makes sure to cook their grandmother’s favorite dish; Everyone gathers at Auntie Marie’s immediately after breakfast; Nonna and Dana share a selfie Fun was had. A lot of fun. Most of all, what we could truly sense through these Stories was the sheer fun, and dare we say craziness, that ensues when large families reunite for Thanksgiving. For Alicia’s family, even the morning food prep is made fun, as they make a tradition out of picking up dim sum takeout from Chinatown each Thanksgiving morning. Andronaelle’s family took a big group photo and had the little ones pose for pictures. Dana even convinced two nonnas at the party to play a round of beer pong – the nonnas surprised with a sneaky bounce play that forced their opponents to take two cups off the table. Top to Bottom: The fun starts early at Alicia’s over morning dim sum takeout; Thanksgiving is a time to compare how much the cousins have grown at Andronaelle’s; Two Italian nonnas were shockingly skilled at beer pong And so our “Through Their Eyes” series concludes. This year, we started our Instagram ethnography series with Gen Z college students, moved into soon-to-be-wed millennials, and then millennial moms. Each time, walking in a segment’s shoes for the day revealed surprising insight that’s useful to brands: Gen Z kept themselves dizzyingly busy and are motivated by hustle, soon-to-be-wed’s use food as a vehicle for expressing and celebrating the love they have for their partners, and millennial moms have much more of a sense of humor than marketers would lead you to believe. Yet it’s perhaps fitting that we ended with multicultural Thanksgiving celebrations, and the reminder that despite how different we ensured our participants were – Chinese, Italian, and Haitian – what came through most strongly were the values that we all share, despite “segment” or ethnicity or age or what have you: an obsession with food, a respect for our elders, and the chaotic fun that ensues when we’re all together.
In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for November 2019. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Whoa – Some Non-Google Doodle Related Phrases Made It To The Top Within the last two months, the top searched terms were related to Google Doodles online. These queries were initiated by users clicking on the updated Google logo, which brought the user to Google’s search result page about the subject of the Doodle. In November, we saw some actual inputted user queries make the 10 Million mark: Day of the Dead - Nov. 1st - 10 Million+ queries History of Thanksgiving - Nov. 27th - 10 Million+ queries Walmart - Nov. 27th - 10 Million+ queries The first query above was generated by Google Doodle clicks The other two appear to be honest-to-goodness user queries. The Google Doodle for Thanksgiving day led to a query of Thanksgiving 2019, so people really did want to know more about the history of the holiday. With the gift buying season starting at the end of November, we saw a number of different retailer brands entering the top searched queries of the month. Walmart led them all and was the only retailer brand that had more than 10 million queries. People Still Love Searching For Sports Over half of the 90 phrases we collected in November were sports-related. While the NFL was the most popular subject with 23 of those phrases, the top spot for most popular sports-related queries was for college football. For two days straight, the same phrase was queried most frequently: 11/8//2019 - LSU vs Alabama - 5,000,000+ 11/9/2019 - LSU vs Alabama - 5,000,000+ This college football rivalry has been going on for many years and this year, LSU won for the first time since 2011. The Tigers’ win may have been the reason there was an additional spike in query volume for the game. Other Top Queries By Category As we record queries, we categorize them by subject matter. Here are some of the top phrases by category: Entertainment The phrase related to Entertainment that had the largest query volume for the month of November was used by people looking for the latest video streaming platform: 11/11/2019 - Disney Plus - 5,000,000+ Technology The biggest technology-related query was driven by users seeking information about an electric powered vehicle: 11/21/2019 - Tesla Truck - 2,000,000+ Politics With a contested election, an Impeachment inquiry, and a presidential campaign heating up, there was a three-way tie for the top political queries in November: 11/5/2019 - Kentucky governor race - 2,000,000+ 11/19/2019 - Quid pro quo - 2,000,000+ 11/20/2019 - Democratic debate - 2,000,000+ Holiday Shopping Drives Queries Lastly, we saw a huge jump in the Shopping query category during the month of November. As previously mentioned, Walmart was the biggest phrase in this category. Here is the list of the other queries that made the top three of their specific dates: 11/14/2019 - Walmart Black Friday - 1,000,000+ 11/18/2019 - Walmart Black Friday 2019 Ad - 200,000+ 11/28/2019 - Best Buy - 2,000,000+ 11/29/2019 - H&M - 500,000+ 11/30/2019 - Cyber Monday 2019 - 2,000,000+ The most notable aspect of this list is the use of retail brand names as queries. These retailers either had strong promotions for their holiday sales, or their sales spoke for themselves and drove search interest by word of mouth. In any case, it’s clear from the search volume that people are still interested in shopping at traditional retailers for the holidays. As the holiday shopping season progresses, AMP will keep an eye on search query trends for our clients to inform our campaigns during this busy season. See you next month!
In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for October 2019. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Google Doodles Drive The Top Queried Terms The two terms with the most volume last month were showcased as Google Doodles. Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau - Oct. 13th - 10 Million+ queries Sylvia Plath - Oct. 26th - 10 Million+ queries Both of these Doodles were created to celebrate each of these historical figures’ birthdays, but the queries were collected as the top queried keyword for the day prior to their actual birthday. For example, even though “Sylvia Plath” was the top keyword for October 26th, her birthday is the 27th. We’re not sure how Google is calculating the timing of these queries. If these numbers are generated by the US audience, it doesn’t make sense why they do not correlate with the day the Doodle was posted. Sports Queries Dominate October Of the 93 keyword phrases that we collected for the month of October, 55 of them were related to sports. The majority of the terms were related to Major League Baseball (21) and the NFL (20). The phrase “World Series” got the most queries for the month on October 30th with 5 Million+. This date coincided with Game 7 of the series. Many of the queries related to sports were team names: 10/3/2019 - Seahawks - 2,000,000+ 10/5/2019 - Cowboys - 2,000,000+ 10/6/2019 - Chiefs - 2,000,000+ 10/7/2019 - 49ers - 2,000,000+ 10/9/2019 - Dodgers - 2,000,000+ 10/9/2019 - Braves - 2,000,000+ 10/10/2019 - Patriots - 2,000,000+ 10/13/2019 - Seahawks - 2,000,000+ 10/14/2019 - Packers - 2,000,000+ 10/15/2019 - Yankees - 2,000,000+ 10/21/2019 - Patriots - 2,000,000+ 10/22/2019 - Astros - 2,000,000+ 10/27/2019 - Packers - 2,000,000+ 10/27/2019 - Patriots - 2,000,000+ AMP theorizes these queries were driven by users who wanted to know the score of the game that the team is playing based on the dates attached to these queries. Teams with large fan bases make the top three phrases where other teams do not. A Few Movie Keywords Made The Cut Google Search trends can be used as a predictor of successful opening weekend of a film or how large the buzz is around a certain picture. Two queries made the list in October: 10/3/2019 - Joker - 1,000,000+ 10/21/2019 - Star Wars trailer- 1,000,000+ Joker had a record breaking weekend at the box office. The interest of the Star Wars trailer is high, but it does not compare to the volume of queries associated with the keywords for the previous sequel trilogy films. Looking at Google Search Trends data over the past five years, the interest related to the latest Star Wars trailer is lower than it was for the films that were released in 2015 and 2017. This may be an indication that the upcoming film may not make as much. Interest In New Tech Apple and Google had a few of their new products make the list in October: 10/28/2019 - AirPods pro - 1,000,000+ 10/15/2019 - Pixel 4 - 500,000+ Clearly, fans of Apple are excited about the earbuds. It’s interesting that the new Google flagship phone didn’t drive as many queries as the iPhone 11. Will Google make a Doodle of its new phone? Probably not. Every Day is a Holiday Did you know that October 3rd was National Boyfriend Day? Me neither – but it drove over a million queries. We have been looking at the popularity of these non-traditional holidays over time. Here’s how National Boyfriend Day has been trending over the last 5 years: Looking at the peaks over the last 5 years, this holiday drove more search interest back in 2018 than 2019. Along with the big spikes that correspond with the actual date of the holiday, there is a complementary one that occurs a couple of months prior. The smaller spike is triggered by another holiday – National Girlfriend Day. It happens on August 1. We compared these phrases to see what the volumes looked like side by side: When we look at this view over the last 12 months, it is clear that these two holidays are intertwined. I wonder what discussions take place when National Girlfriend Day happens. Do boyfriends search for their day to see when they will get repaid for celebrating the holiday for their girlfriend? Is the lower spike of “national girlfriend day” during the timeframe of October 3rd indicative of boyfriends’ lack of planning for next year? There are just so many questions. New Holidays = New Opportunity All joking aside, these non-traditional holidays have been appearing throughout the year. AMP Agency has been looking into these types of phrases to understand if they are gaining in popularity. If we can get ahead of these trends, it can be fruitful for our clients as it makes sense for them to own or run promotions that coincide with some of these holidays. Now that October has wrapped up, we’re excited to see what trends November brings. See you next month!
“What keywords are trending?” It’s the question people ask me all the time SEO. That’s why, in an effort to answer it, I have been collecting Google Search Trends data since the beginning of the year. As anyone who has used Google Trends will tell you, this tool provides quick information to see directional data on anywhere between one keyword to five keywords presented over time. When you want to gather information on trending terms around topics, however, things get a bit more time-intensive. I believe you really need to put in time to pull data on a regular basis and review it as you go to get the best insights – so that’s precisely what I’ve been doing. To-date, I have two initiatives going – one is at a macro-level, and the other is at a micro-level. The micro-level initiative is focused on understanding search volume growth around keywords that are related to some of my client’s top products and services. We’re constantly digging in to see what the latest rising and top terms are and then conducting further research and analysis on them using the Google Trends tool. The macro-level initiative is structured towards gaining a better understanding of the most popular queries are on any given day. With the help of my teammate Brandon Ma, we have been pulling the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google every day. This data pull and analysis has given us some understanding of what drives people to query Google in the moment, what topics people have been interested in this month, and what we can learn from it. Ultimately, we are putting in the work to provide insights for our team and our clients to utilize this free Google tool to its full extent. In this blog post, I am presenting the findings for the top searched terms from the US in the month of September 2019 from Google’s Daily Search Trends found here: https://trends.google.com/trends/trendingsearches/daily?geo=US Each of the top three terms was recorded with the number of queries that keyword drove for that specific day. Google reports estimations in round numbers with a plus sign next to the number to denote the exact count is somewhere above the number shown. The scale that we saw for the top three keywords last month topped out at 10,000,000+ and the lower limit was at 200,000+. Here are some of the observations we had after looking at the data. Google Doodles Drive Searches Google drives searches in its engine by changing its logo via its long-running Google Doodle program. Changing their logo entices users who visit the homepage of Google, open their app, or open a new tab in Chrome to click on the Doodle and, in turn, query the engine. The majority of the keywords that were reported to have 10MM+ queries for the month of September in the US were presented as Google Doodles: Ynes Mexia – Mexican-American botanist and explorer in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (9/15) Rugby World Cup – Opening Day of the tournament (9/19) Junko Tabei – First woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, celebrating what would have been her 80th birthday (9/22) Fall Season – Noting the first day of Autumn (9/23) Google – A doodle to celebrate the engine’s 21st birthday – somebody buy it a beer! (9/27) Sports Interest Fuels Queries With the NFL season kicking off in September, it has dominated as the top trending topic of the month. An NFL related phrase took the top queried term of the day 11 times throughout the month. Here are some of the highlights: Antonio Brown – 2MM+ (9/4) NFL – 5MM+ (9/5) NFL – 5MM+ (9/7) Thursday Night Football – 2MM+ (9/12) Antonio Brown – 2MM+ (9/20) Eagles vs. Packers – 5MM+ (9/26) Since I have been looking at these top phrases since the beginning of the year, Google Trends data certainly supports the popularity of the NFL over all other American professional sports leagues. As for most popular teams, the Cowboys are the top driver of team name search queries. The Patriots come in second for the month of September, but I am sure they’ll be number one again when it matters. TV Show Premieres Are Search Worthy With the new Fall TV season, people are still Googling their favorite network TV shows. American Horror Story – 500K+ (9/18) This Is Us – 500K+ (9/24) Masked Singer – 500K+ (9/25) Some other TV events also made our list: AGT Winner 2019 – 500K+ (9/17) Emmys 2019 – 2MM+ (9/23) Although their popularity is waning, Primetime TV shows still get attention for their premieres. The Top Tech Keywords Hot new video platforms and the latest iPhones drove millions of queries last month. Tiktok – 2MM+ (9/6) iPhone 11 – 5MM+ (9/9) iPhone 11 Pro – 2MM+ (9/10) Marketers have been keeping an eye on Tiktok as a new platform to reach audiences. With the spike of search interest in early September, Google Trends is showing that user interest is increasing. Searches Related to Politics Queries related to the national politics made the top daily searches in the month of September. Democratic Debate – 2MM+ (9/11) Impeachment – 1MM+ (9/23) Trump – 2MM+ (9/24) Whistleblower Complaint – 1MM+ (9/25) News stories typically drive queries as people seek to learn more about events as they happen. It’s fascinating to see the progression of the presidential impeachment inquiry. Conclusion After pulling the top three queries each day for 30 days, we garnered a list of 90 phrases by the end of September. Looking over these phrases as a whole and segmenting them by our own categorization, it’s clear Sports and Entertainment related keywords spur the most searches. Sports keywords made up 38 of the 90 phrases. They were mostly NFL related with instances of college football, tennis stars, and Champions League soccer (sorry, football). Entertainment keywords took 26 slots of the 90 total keywords. Sadly, celebrity deaths made up a good chunk of those queries (RIP Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek). Other queries were related to premieres or releases. Just like TV shows, movie titles also made the list. We probably could have predicted big opening weekends for It: Chapter 2 and Ad Astra based on the keyword search volume each of them had in September alone. Now that we have this collection of data and high-level analysis, we are eager to know more. Was the search interest around this year’s season opener bigger or smaller than last year? What are the top rising phrases related to Fall? Was the release of the iPhone 11 as big as X? Once we dig in further, we’ll have some valuable insights to share with our teams and clients. See you next month!
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.
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.