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SEX and the mobile consumer

The retail landscape has changed tremendously. At one time, a person would come into a major retail store with a 15-item list, speak to a salesperson, and leave with 17 things. Today, that same person would come in armed with their smartphone, and exit having purchased only five items. The question for today's retailer is "What are those other things the customer didn't buy, and how to I get them to spend more?"

This is called SEX -- or the Store to E-commerce Xfer (transfer). At the iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado, California, Anthony Long, global e-commerce technology lead at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, spoke about the job of the modern marketer -- to push tech providers.

Where does this issue come from? The consumer is no longer captive, said Long. But they want to be. The SEX acronym works another way, too: Social (to) Experience Xchange. Social isn't just a network of communication -- it drives our behavior patterns. Consumers seek out the experiences of others. What advertising does is depict reality, but social actually shows that reality.

We've all seen how media works, said Long. It used to have defined boundaries, but now they're blurred. If no one is paying attention to your ad, it's not working. The shopping experience has left the aisle, and now we need to understand and activate on it. Marketers have to change our behaviors -- and learn to give love in order to get love. Here's how we do it:

Growth hacking for retail and brands

Think about the notion of online dating. You can create a platform or service, but if it's not working, consumers will ignore it. They'll work their way around to get what they want.

Growth hacking, as a practice, doesn't work. It's been discredited as a way to drive large amounts of tracking to a user base because it actually resulted in a lowered number of users. The fallacy here is that you get out in front of as many people as possible, but that doesn't mean there's any conversion.

But social is different. Here, brands have to have a relationship with consumers. So once again, you're getting out in front of as many eyes as possible, but there's a "self-cleansing" to the practice, said Long. Those who fall away, so to speak, are not lost. If you give them a reason to share your message, they may pass it along to friends, even if it's not what they want or need at the time.

So, as with online dating, people do what they want to get what they want. Brands need to build a way for them to get to you, and they'll align behind it.

The cashless transaction

This idea is thought to be the purest thing there is: Brands aren't asking for anything, so the consumer isn't giving them anything, only getting. But it's actually possible to do things for free, and have an ulterior motive, said Long. It's the principle behind random acts of kindness.

People are motivated by kindness, and it's a way to get people to love your brand. What makes a viral message work? You must create awe. Social sharing is key to this because sharing is what you're getting out of doing something nice for no reason. Long summed it up: You don't need your customers to prove their awesomeness -- you tell them that you know they're awesome.

And sometimes, giving does result in cash. Think of the ice bucket challenge of 2014. Without having to pay for media, millions of dollars were given to the ALS foundation. A small portion of that went to research, and they succeeded: They managed to locate the gene that causes the disease. It was a win all around.

Don't buy media, have media buy you

Long offered up a case study: A small town in Italy of about one thousand people wanted the Foo Fighters, a very popular band, to come perform for them. They made a video, and it went viral, with over 33 million views.

So was the cost of this request worth it to the band? It's all about scale. While they may only sell one thousand tickets, if they charge $25 per ticket, that's $850,000. The overhead for a concert of that size rounds out to about $300,000 -- so yeah, it's worth it.

The lesson here? Make people think that your brand is approachable. Show that, and they'll come to you. That's a marketer's job.

Master the path from purchase

Next, Long brought up an important point: In our industry, we don't pay attention to what happens after someone buy something. What if the transaction wasn't what you planned for?

After parting with their label, the metal band Iron Maiden discovered they were having problems with piracy. A separate group did a global study, which was covered by a magazine, about the issue, and learned that most of the band's music was being illegally downloaded in South America.

What if the band had taken advantage of this? They could have rented stadiums and sold out -- gone on a major tour and brought their music to small towns and cities alike. There's a demand, and rather than just calling this perceived interest a part of the problem, it could have been even more valuable, and become a part of the solution.

Be bold

Finally, all of this comes back to the same principle -- doing something different. You can use old technology to do something big and new. Do something that takes tremendous vision and guts, said Long. Tell your leadership what you're doing and why -- it gives people a reason to listen to your brand. Because it's not just about increasing your media budget -- it's about really taking advantage of actionable ideas.

Becca is currently an editor at iMedia Connection, as well as a freelance entertainment writer for ScreenPicks.com and The Televixen. In the past, she has worked as a social media/community manager at SEO Savvy, Empower Digital, and Mahalo. ...

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