Could POS (Point of Sale) and O2S (Online to Store) be related? Absolutely!

Remember ‘back in the day’ prior to 1978 when there was no Point Of Sale data. Retailers would spend millions of dollars on advertising with no link to what was selling at the cash register. There were no bar codes, scanners or the like to help understand inventory levels, what sold, what day, how many, and from what medium. Well, when bar codes and scanners debuted, it changed business as we knew it - creating accountability as it relates to what products were selling, when they were selling, and if advertising had an effect on how many were sold. This led to increased investments in research from the POS data and shifting media spend to higher performing channels once the advertising results could be measured at the store level.

Sound familiar? It should, some day you may be talking to someone in marketing and saying- remember back in the day when we didn’t have O2S data? When advertisers weren’t aware of what effect their online marketing programs were having on their in-store sales, but instead were only optimizing and taking credit for sales on their website. Online To Store research is transforming retail today based on the ability to test digital marketing during a specified period of time and measure exactly what happens to sales not only online through eCommerce, but possibly more importantly- in-store in the test markets. Test and control has never led to greater clarity of online efficacy.

This is the Holy Grail of advertising and marketing funding if you think about it. You have read on this blog before about Google partnering with Retailers to learn exactly what a dollar spent online can do for in-store sales, well now a number of the tests have been completed and the results are in! Online advertising drives in-store sales!

Just take the publicly distributed Pier 1 O2S Case Study as an example from October of last year, when Google and Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), a data analysis and software firm, teamed up with Pier 1 Imports and their search marketing agency, Resolution Media. During one of the most turbulent periods in retailing history, Pier 1 saw a 3:1 return on investment in-store from their online expenditures in Search and Content. Not only 3:1 ROI, but an overall 2% sales lift, even more impressive when you factor in the times and economic conditions. Like bar codes & scanners in the past, these tests helped Pier 1 Imports understand their online-influenced in-store sales today: what sold, what day, how many.

So now what? Can you imagine hearing someone say that today’s POS data is good and all but they’re still just going to apply traditional media mix modeling without regard to the data the POS scanners are providing? NO WAY! We’re talking about data driven marketing decisions dating back to 1978 when newspapers were providing huge spikes in sales for retailers- measurable through POS.

So today, my challenge for you, Mr. or Mrs. Retailer is to take the data that O2S case studies or in-house tests are providing and put them to work and put your marketing money where the results are - using the wisdom of the testing crowds! Just like back in 1978…

Depending on which state you live in, school is starting somewhere between 2 weeks to 4 weeks from today--which according to marketers' calendar typically signals the end of the back-to-school retail season. But in this not so typical year, we're noticing that the 2009 back-to-school retail season is just getting back in session as we enter August. Sure, shoppers are expected to spend a little less this season than the economy would like, but as much as they're stretching their shopping dollars, students and parents are also stretching their shopping cycle. In a recently released NRF back-to-school survey, we've found that up to 82% of shoppers are expected to still be shopping for back-to-school items this week, or have not even begun shopping yet. [1] If surveys aren't enough indication, real-time data is showing signs that marketers really should amp up their back to school campaigns now, instead of pulling back or completely pulling off their campaigns.

Back to school searches have been steadily rising in popularity the past month, to nobody's surprise. As we closed out the month of July, we saw various keywords rising especially fast this year compared to the same back to school time frame last year. Users around this time are showing much stronger interest in 'college laptops,' 'school shoes,' and 'backpacks' among other things than 2008: [2]

What struck me as most interesting about these searches was the idea of using these trends as a starting guide to dig into keywords that uncover what may be on students' and parents' shopping lists this year. New keywords that surface in back to school categories can reflect new or popular items everyone is looking to stock up for the back to school season. In that case, we can expect more boys and girls donning North Face backpacks and Jessica Simpson 'Carsi' sandals this year, while accessorizing their cell phones with new faceplates and skins, and parents and college students decorating new rooms with zebra bedding and hip barstools. [3]

Historical trends on Google Insights for Search show us that the back to school shopping season is just approaching its height and expected to reach its peak online in the next two weeks. So even for those who haven't had a chance yet to run their back to school campaigns, there's still time to capture many of these shoppers online now.

[1] NRF's "2009 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Surveys," released July 14, 2009. Percentage total of those who begin shopping 1 month (4 weeks) before school starts, to those who begin to shop after school starts, based on all Adults 18+ respondents from Back-to-School survey.
[2] Google Insights of Search in US. Query Volume Index growth refers to year-over-year growth based on Week of 7/19-7/25 in 2009 compared against corresponding week in 2008. **Growth rates are indexed to the highest point of search volume and are expected to vary as active searches increase. Please use for directional purposes only.**
[3] Hitwise, Industry Search Terms Comparison Report. New search terms driving traffic to 'Apparel & Accessories,' 'Appliances & Electronics,' and 'House & Garden' category sites during 4 weeks ending 7/25/09 compared against 4 weeks ending 6/6/09.

My mother always said that her three children were the most important thing in her life. Blanketed in the narcissism of childhood, I not only believed this to be true, but went several steps further - taking it as a given that my siblings and I were our mother's singular focus. Really, it wasn't until I reached college age that I fully understood that being a mom and having interests beyond one's children were not mutually exclusive. Having had this epiphany, its now clear that, like all moms, my mother worked hard to balance work, parenting, friends, and personal interests.

Mothers of young children today face similar challenges, however, to manage their priorities, they use the Internet in a way my mother never did - both for utility and as a communication platform. When it comes to their online activities, moms are not only moms, but also, individuals, with their own diverse sets of interests.

Digital Channels: Key at All Stages of the Purchasing Cycle

From a marketing standpoint, the "Mommy" segment has always been an attractive one. After all, moms shop not just for themselves, but for their entire household.

If you are looking to attract their attention, its important to note that as moms' media consumption patterns shift, the digital channel has become increasingly important for influencing their numerous buying choices. Many of the 34 million moms online [1] learn about products for the first time not via TV, but online. Then, looking to get more information, they turn to Web resources such as online reviews and search. Finally, when they are ready to purchase, they seek out online destinations to save time.

The Household's Chief Purchasing Officers

According to Experian Simmons' 2007-2008 Survey, 70% of online moms made a purchase on the Web in the past 12 months. Their top three purchase categories were apparel and accessories (36% made a purchase); books, music and video (31%); and toys and games (24%). It is true that moms often make online purchases for their kids and family, but they also routinely shop for themselves.

And, when it comes to spendng, moms are hardly using their childrens' Monopoly money. On the contrary, 38% of moms surveyed by Experian had they spent at least $200 on online purchases over the past year and 13% coughed up $1,000 or more.

Once moms do find something they like, their influence extends well beyond their own families. Nielsen found that women ages 25 to 54 with at least one child were not only highly likely to give advice about parenting/family issues (88% more likely than the typical Internet user), they were also more likely to share information about household and beauty/cosmetic products. [2]

Finding Moms in their Natural Habitats:

For marketers looking to reach this group, there are a multitude of ways to do so. Moms are both regular searchers and frequent visitors to parenting and family, news, weather and political content sites. As shown in the chart below, marketing to the digital mom is best down through web links (43.1%) and sponsored search results (41.9%). [3]

Note, however, if you are looking to reach my mother, her online activities are centered around her grown daughter.

You didn't expect the narcissism of youth to fade completely, did you?

[1] eMarketer, "Moms Online: More Influential Than Ever", May 2009
[2] Nielsen Online, "FallPlan2008", Oct 2008
[3] Experian Simmons, provided to eMarketer, April 2009; eMarketer calculations, May 2009. Note: ages 18+ with at least one child under 18 in household; used Internet from home or work in past seven days.