Friday, September 28, 2012

Geo What?

For a variety of reasons, I've been in discussions regarding the transition of the management of Zoe's social media to an outside consulting organization.  Not only have they helped me appreciate the value of connecting through the most well-known of the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, blogging) but also the value of using additional platforms to reach an even more targeted audience.

One of the first things I did in our conversation was confuse social location services (things like FourSquare and Facebook Check-Ins) with Geo-Targeting (the strategy of targeting marketing/advertising to people based on their location).  The one thing I did get right was that it is all about location!

One of the questions that I asked of my consultants was information on the demographics of the users of each social media platform.  If the demographics of the people using the platform don't fit Zoe's customers, it probably doesn't make sense to spend time and effort on it.

I'd love it if social location services worked for the store.  I've had a FourSquare profile (one for the store, another for myself) for probably 9 months.  I ran a couple of "specials" on it for 2 - 3 weeks at a time but got no check-ins (and consequently no redemption of the deal) from it.  Personally, I have a lot of fun "checking in" on FourSquare and have gotten several deals (especially at restaurants and some stores) from doing so.  But I do not seem to fit the typical demographic using FourSquare.

In July, I had a visit from a rep from a company called ScoutMob.  They are a hybrid of a Daily Deal service and a social location service (their deals also appear on a participating company's FourSquare site).

Their business proposition was a good one.  They run the deal as the featured deal one day on their site although it remains available for 6 months.  I get to set the parameters of the deal and I only pay if someone redeems the deal via their SmartPhone.  They send someone out to interview me and take pictures.  Zoe's deal ran on September 11th.

On the first day of the deal, a user can "capture" it via a code that they can then provide in the store when they are ready to cash in the deal.  Of course, anyone can look it up (or pick it up via FourSquare or ScoutMob) at any time in the next 6 months.

We had a nice number of people "capture" the deal on the day it ran but none of them have shopped in the store yet.  We've also had a couple of people come into the store with the deal on their smart phone (one we could see as they were looking around, the other found it via FourSquare).  But no takers yet.  What I suspect is that Zoe's demographic and the users of this App don't necessarily match up.  But it is always worth a try especially when the risk is low.

And not to matter what decision I make about Zoe's social media, I'll always be writing Zoe's blog!

Next up:  Yes, I'm buying for Spring in September

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why I Don't Make Decisions When I'm Tired

The day following Fashion's Night Out was a bit of a struggle for me.  It had been an intense period leading up to the event and then the event itself was busy.  Couple that with eating dinner at 11 pm and having a hard time "coming down" after all the adrenaline pumping that evening and I didn't get much sleep.

Bright and early on Friday morning, a young man came bounding up the stairs armed with an iPad in hopes of talking with me about an inventory management software system.  I let him get about 5 minutes into his spiel when I told him that, while I'd like to talk to him about it, I simply couldn't that day.  I explained to him honestly that I would want to ask him lots of questions and that I couldn't really put a seriously coherent thought together at that point so it was best that he come back.  It was important to me that a) I didn't write something off that could potentially be important to my business and, conversely, b) I didn't agree to something without giving it the proper thought.

He could see that he wasn't going to get any sort of response from me that day so he agreed to return the following week.  The original premise of the product was somewhat intriguing - it allowed a store to track people's interest in items and alert people when those items go on sale.  This is something we had done through the human computer method (my head) since the store opened - if someone really liked something but didn't buy it (and had connected with the store), I would contact them when it went on sale to see if they were still interested in it.  Ninety percent of the time, they were still interested in it and would purchase it at that time.

The product, Lemur (yes, like the animal - they even incorporate it into their logo), can be help businesses move old and slow-moving inventory by capturing the information during interactions between salespeople and customers and providing contacts and alerts when those items go on sale.  Imagine you are in your local big box electronics store and you are admiring the latest and greatest television set.  An employee sidles up to you and asks if they can help.  You tell them that you like the TV but it is too pricey for you at that time.  They ask if you'd like to know when it goes on sale (and possibly what price you'd be willing to pay for it).  You say "Yes", they enter it into the application and you get an email from the store if the item goes on sale.

I asked him questions about connectivity with the point of sale system (since that is where I also control sale prices and time periods) and he confirmed that there were no pre-developed APIs to link the two systems with information.  They also did not yet have the type of reporting from the product that would be effective for a store like mine.  While it is an interesting concept and they were willing to allow stores to perform trials with it prior to making a decision on a purchase/revenue-share model, it seemed to fit a large store model (where employees don't necessary develop relationships with customers) rather than a small boutique store model.  I asked if they were performing trials in any boutiques at the time and he confirmed that they were not.

I'll keep an eye on the product as I'm always interested in opportunities to improve the customer experience but it doesn't appear to be the right fit for Zoe at this time.

Next up:  Geo what?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fashion's Night Out - The Recap

I've heard it said that you can tell how much fun you had by how long it takes you to recover from said event.  Considering it has been almost two weeks since Fashion's Night Out and I am just now recovered enough to blog about probably says more than all my words can express!

The morning of September 6th found me loading the car at home with chilled prosecco and sparkling lemonade, a change of clothes, and a whole lot of hope.  After a stop at the Old Town Safeway (and enduring the jokes "Where's the party?" after buying 6 bags of ice), I arrived at Zoe. started to rain.  I made several trips from car to store and back (with the help of a local neighborhood man who took pity on me), got the cooler packed with drinks and ice and took a deep breath.

As the morning went on, the rain got heavier and steadier.  Was this going to be a washout?  Would anyone come out in the rain?  Was I going to have a whole lot of prosecco all to myself?  I busied myself with making the swag bags and tried not to think about it.

Fortunately, the rain cleared by mid-afternoon and everything started to dry up.  As soon as the sun came out, people started to come out too!  I had a couple of people come during the afternoon hours who weren't going to be able to make it that evening.

At 4 pm, Tara and Zoie arrived to help me begin the set-up process.  These young ladies had volunteered to help with FNO at Zoe because they love fashion!  The first thing we did was prep the table for the arrival of the cake pops from Alexandria Cake Pop Company and prepare the glasses for the beverages.  Then we determined that the patio was dry enough to "Roll Out the Red Carpet" and set up the table to show off the raffle items and collect entries.  Between those tasks and changing into our "uniform" (the FNO T-shirt and dark pants/denim) for the evening, we stayed busy.

The cake pops were everything I had hoped for and more!  Tamara had recently purchased a machine that allowed her to print logos and words and she put it to work for my order!  We had agreed she would do cake pops in the shape of purses and she added to Zoe logo to some of them!

At 6 pm, people started arriving and it was non-stop busy!  We had photographers stop in from WJLA 7 News as well as the Alexandria Times.  Just like our Sidewalk Sale experience, we had quite a bit of time where we were having to ask people to wait for dressing rooms!  Alexandra arrived at around 5:45 and barely got her breath before she was managing the dressing room queues!  Sarabeth arrived at around 7:00 and keep the clothing orderly, replenished the sale rack and made sure everything got back to the proper place.  Janice and Karen arrived and immediately jumped behind the counter to help me wrap and bag the sales.  We ran through our 20 SWAG bags (gifts with purchase) before 8 pm!

While all this was going on inside, Sally and Jamie were snapping red carpet pictures outside and Tara and Zoie were registering everyone for the raffle prizes!

Tara and Zoie

Red Carpet Lovlies

We had a slight lull during the time of the Fashion Show (at 8 pm at the Torpedo Factory) but it picked right back up again at around 8:25.  Jenn of The Medestrian watched the Fashion Show for me and reported back that Zoe's model looked stunning in her Chan Luu top and Rebecca Taylor Skirt.

Zoe's clothing at the Fashion Show

I couldn't believe that we still had people walking in right at 10 pm.  Everyone we spoke with that evening had a wonderful time!  At the end of the evening, Tara and Zoie brought me a huge stack of cards from everyone who had connected with Zoe that evening (several inches tall!)  Since I was so tired, I decided to hold off on the drawing for the raffle items until the next morning.  I had no idea how sales were totaling (I knew we had been busy) and was delighted with that result too!  And the next morning when I saw how much our Facebook "Likes" had grown, I had another smile on my face!  Plus, everyone had a good time!  I couldn't ask for more!

The one question I know you've been asking yourself....did the Essie Nail Polish arrive in time to be included in the SWAG bags?  The answer would be NO!  UPS Driver Freddy did have a delivery for me on Thursday afternoon (a beautiful box of Chan Luu Fall Ready to Wear) but no nail polish.  It arrived on Friday.  So, Zoe fans, you can look forward to another event in the future where you will get a bottle of this lovely nail polish.

From the Lessons Learned column...have multiple corkscrews on hand.  We managed to break 2 during the evening.  That is one "Business Continuity" item I had not thought to include in my plan. 

Next up:  Why I Don't Make Decisions When I'm Tired

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Early Morning Fashion Show

In my Question and Answer post regarding the prep for Fashion's Night Out Alexandria, I had mentioned that Zoe had the opportunity to dress a model for a FOX 5 Morning News segment.  As a participating store, we were also given the opportunity to attend the taping but needed to arrive by 6:30 am in order to not disrupt the filming of the teasers and the segments.

I was up bright and early last Tuesday morning and even left the house prior to Jim's departure!  I stopped by Zoe and got the store ready for the day, grabbed a Venti Americano as I passed by Starbucks and arrived at The Torpedo Factory just prior to 6:30.  I could see the FOX 5 News truck already set up outside the building.

As people began arriving, imagine my delight when I discovered that one of the founders of Fashion's Night Out Alexandria (and the key speaker for the segments) was wearing some gorgeous red Katie Bartels earrings that she had purchased at Zoe during the Christmas in July weekend!  Zoe would be on TV in multiple ways!

This time around, there wasn't much for me to do except observe and enjoy!  Zoe's model looked stunning and the cobalt blue of her dress looked fantastic on TV.  Here is a picture of her taken at the store during the fitting the previous Friday.

After the segment aired at around 7:50, the models returned the clothing and I was back to work!  Here is a link to the segments (look for Zoe's outfit in the 7 am segment).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Capital BikeShare comes to Zoe

Two things:

1) I am horribly delinquent in writing in the blog.  I'm getting abuse from more than just my blogging conscience (Jim) these days.

2) I'm still recovering from the fun that was Fashion's Night Out Alexandria.  Since I'll have to write a few posts about that event, I thought I'd at least get an interim post in while I finish recovering.

What better to write about than the new Capital BikeShare station that has been set up outside Zoe?  The Capital BikeShare program has been in place in DC and in Arlington County for sometime.  This popular program allows people to "rent" bicycles for use at one spot and drop them at another spot (if desired).  Many people have found it a great way to commute, to explore the area, and to run errands.

Late last year/early this year, the City Council in Alexandria voted to add Capital BikeShare stations in the Old Town area.  There was some discussion as to where they would be located but nothing had been finalized.  My thought was "that sounds cool!"

In May of this year, a man was outside Zoe on Prince and Union streets doing some measuring.  Local residents came up to him to ask what he was doing (I had Zoe's door open and could hear the conversation).  He said he was measuring for a potential Capital BikeShare station to go on that corner. Uh oh.  I may experienced my first ever case of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

Honestly, my initial thought was....great.  So now I have a bunch of people coming in the store to ask me how to use it (I get asked every question imaginable - from where to have lunch to the location of the nearest ATM to how to get back on the Beltway).  There will be some sort of loss of parking spaces.  And how many people on bikes have ever purchased anything from the store?  (To their credit, I do have people who discover Zoe while biking on the Mt. Vernon Trail who do end up coming back as customers).  I also worried about the two local bikeshops located within a block of me who rent bikes.

In June, a representative from the City's Transportation and Environmental Services T&ES) came into the store to introduce herself and tell me about the plans for the BikeShare station.  She had also posted signs indicating that there would be a hearing about the location.  I truly intended to attend the hearing but I got the day mixed up and missed it.  In reading the minutes of the meeting, it turned out that no one attended!

The T&ES representative had told me that the station would likely go in during the late summer.  Sure enough, the final week in August saw more signs posted to prohibit parking and the station materialized quickly.  The station took 3 parking spaces along the Prince Street side of Zoe's courtyard.  I sent a note to the T&ES rep to ask for brochures and updated maps so that I could learn more about the BikeShare and provide information for those who had questions.  She brought it by before the station even went into operation.

Despite my initial angst, the BikeShare station hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  One woman told me she discovered the store when she turned in her bike at that particular station!  I haven't had a lot of questions AND the bikes do appear to be used frequently.  My only remaining lament is the loss of the 3 parking spaces so close to the store.  But it looks like we may develop a positive co-existence!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Continuing Prep for Fashion's Night Out

Today's blog comes to you in Question and Answer format:

1) So, how are those SWAG bags coming along?

Overall, they seem to be coming together nicely.  We have some fabulous items including a mini Inslee by Design calendar, the Haughty Cosmetics Lip Gloss, Scarves from Velvet (huge thanks to them for sending these to me!), and a postcard for a discount on a future purchase.  What hasn't gone well?  Getting the Essie Nail Polish.  Who would have thought this would be so painful??  Trying to find a distribution chain for nail polish that retails at $8 has been almost impossible.

I knew I was in trouble when I called the number that one of my clothing wholesale showrooms had provided to me as a possible resource.  Honestly, it was if I had called a convenience store.  When the woman who answered the phone asked me to spell my FIRST name and told me they would call me back in 15 minutes, I knew it was a lost cause. (And no, they did not call me back).

It is possible that I found a resource for the nail polish but I am not sure if it is going to arrive on time for FNO.  Finger(nail)s crossed!

2) How are you getting the word out?

All the usual suspects (Facebook, Twitter, local newspaper ad, email list) plus a new method - postcard mailing!  As I type, I have 1 postcard sitting on the cash wrap waiting to be handed out/mailed.  The other 199 are (hopefully) in the hands of people who will want to attend the most fun fashion event of Fall!

The thanks for these amazing postcards goes to my dear friend and talented graphic designer Cori.  I had sent her an email saying that I needed 3 postcards created (One for the FNO mailing and two for other purposes) - could she help?  I only had to describe what I was trying to do with each one and she sent me drafts that were perfect.  I did not change one thing!  Plus, she negotiated a fantastic rate with the printer and had them deliver to me at the store.

Oh, and did you know it almost impossible to find postcard stamps these days?  It took me raiding 3 post offices in the Alexandria area to get enough to do the mailing!

3) What are you wearing for FNO?

Of course, this is something that I've given a lot of thought.  It is going to be a long day for me - actually the same as Black Friday last year - 12+ hours.  I'll have several people helping me that evening and I thought it would be good if our guests could identify who is representing Zoe.  With that in mind, we are all wearing the FNO Alexandria T-shirt with black pants or black denim.  I had already bought a range of sizes to sell in the store so it is the perfect solution.

4) How else is Zoe being highlighted for FNO?

Zoe had her first radio experience (that we know of) on Monday when the morning team from FreshFM (94.7) told listeners that Zoe was an FNO participant and gave away a $100 gift card to the store.  I must confess that I did not hear the radio "shout out" because I was busy doing my normal "day off" things but I was told by others that Zoe made the show that day!

The previous Friday, stylist Kathryn Martin came by the store to pull several looks for the FNO Alexandria Fashion Show scheduled for 8 pm at the Torpedo Factory.  Those items will be dropped off for the model fitting by this upcoming Wednesday!

And, Zoe hits the TV airwaves again on Tuesday morning when FOX 5 broadcasts segments from The Torpedo Factory.  A complete outfit from Zoe will be shown and described on air.  Sarabeth and I got to work with the model yesterday to pick her look and she was stunning!  I have a picture but I'm not going to share it - you'll have to watch!  The segment on the Fashion portion of the the FNO event should take place at around 7:40 am.  I won't be on camera but will be there to observe.

We've also provided information and photos to bloggers and look forward to posts in the upcoming few days.

5) What else?  Why is the event at Zoe going to be so much fun?

We will have Prosecco, Sparkling Lemonade and Cake Pops.  My friend Sally of Sally Brewer Photography will be taking photos on Zoe's red carpet from 6 - 8 pm.  And, in addition to the SWAG bags (with purchase), we'll be doing a drawing at the end of the evening for some fabulous prizes including a $200 Zoe Boutique gift card, a Chan Luu bracelet, a Tru Tru classic tote, and a package of great fashion films!  Plus, you'll get a postcard for a future discount on all the great Fall Fashions you'll be seeing that night!

Next up:  The FOX 5 Segment experience