Our Thoughts on Marketing and Strategy

Topics and trends that affect your retail marketing.

Are BMW’s Sales Floors Going Digital, LinkedIn Opening Blogging Platform, and more…
SilverGrass Clippings
Welcome to SilverGrass Clippings, a weekly round-up of news and opinion in the retail marketing world.

‘Geniuses’ to Replace Salespeople in BMW Showrooms

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The Wall Street Journal reported last week that BMW has some major changes to its showroom floors on its wish list, knocking out cubicles and signage and replacing them with digital displays and Apple-Store-esque ‘Geniuses’ to answer customer questions. (Subscription required: http://on.wsj.com/OyoDCK)

It’s an interesting concept, and one that would definitely rock the automotive sales world. As the Millennials move into BMW’s target demographic, it makes sense for the European luxury brand to court the more affluent early adopters among them.

But the article leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Apple’s ‘Geniuses’ don’t work on commissions or get SPIFFs, both long-standing mainstays of the automobile sales world. Instead, the average Apple retail employee makes about $12 per hour. Will commissions go away? Will the geniuses get a piece of that pie? Will the traditional salespeople go away entirely? And what will become of price negotiations on the vehicles?

And what of BMW’s non-Millennial customers, who for the foreseeable future will continue to make up a large part of BMW’s target demographic? Will the prospect of these young ‘Geniuses’ be enticing or alienating? Is there something inherently tactile about the car-buying experience – especially in the luxury sector – that can’t be replaced by digital screens and young product experts?

In short, there are more questions than answers at this point, but it’s an interesting development in an industry with a sales approach that already leaves many feeling uncomfortable and alienated. It certainly bears watching at BMW to see what changes happen, how successful they are, and the impact they’ll have on the American automotive manufacturers’ approaches.

LinkedIn to Open Blogging Platform to All Users

LinkedIn’s page views are dropping. So to try to increase members’ usage of the site beyond just looking for jobs, it’s opening its blogging platform – now used only by its influencers – to all LinkedIn members. (http://reut.rs/1htZeTb)

The move aims to create a business-focus feed similar to the social feed users are accustomed to seeing on platforms like Facebook.

We think it has potential to be another element of content marketing, exposing a person or a company’s content to an audience beyond just its site visitors. And it will be a fantastic tool for users who don’t have another outlet for longer-form industry writings, say a company or personal blog on the topic.

But what of the individuals or small businesses that already post that type of content on their own blogs or company sites? We’ll have to see what LinkedIn’s policy is on back linking to those original articles so the LinkedIn content doesn’t just siphon views and decrease site traffic for the poster’s own site. And they promise analytics, but will they be as good as what Google Analytics can provide if you host that same content on your own blog?

Still, it’s a platform with which I’ll be eager to experiment, and I hope it’ll help target people who might not otherwise be visiting this site.

Brutal Winter Taking a Bite Out of Restaurant Sales

January and February are traditionally slow months for restaurants, but this year’s brutal weather throughout much of the country has taken an even bigger bite than usual out of restaurant sales. (http://bit.ly/1fmWOT9)

Plainly put, it’s just been too darn cold / wet / snow / miserable for people to want to make any non-essential treks outside. Analysts expect restaurant traffic to bounce back when the winter weather abates, but until then, it will continue to be a challenge.

Our advice? If you deliver, remind people of that. Do an email or direct mail campaign. Post it on social media. Make sure they know you can let them stay cozy in their own homes.

Still need to get them to come out to your location? Plan special one-time events that appeal to your demographic. Have a theme night, a community class, an author appearance – and make sure to publicize it. If you have a bar, offer happy hour specials and let neighborhood residents and businesses / employees know all about it. It’s easy to say, “Yes, I’ll stay for dinner” after a cozy happy hour.

“Buy Local” Campaign Thrives in Lincoln Square – Ravenswood

Don’t mind us if we toot our own horns… We were excited to be a part of the “Unwrap Lincoln Square – Ravenswood” campaign this past holiday season, providing the creative for outdoor signage, CTA signage, posters, brochures, and business cards, as well as designing and implementing the official unwraplincolnsquareravenswood.com website. The campaign generated nearly $95K in holiday spending at the neighborhood shops and restaurants. Kudos also to Ripson Communications for a job very well done with promotion on the event. (http://bit.ly/1fC58Tk)