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To combat economic pressures as customers increasingly migrate online, retailers continue to look for ways to entice customers to their brick and mortar stores. One such approach has been the rise of in-store dining. Back in the 1900s many U.S. department stores ran restaurants within their department stores, many of which have stood the test of time. With online retail sales expected to increase by 16% by the end of this holiday season, retail locations are looking to add an experience to their physical stores that the online space can’t offer.

Tommy Bahamas is a flagship example of how lucrative in-store dining can be. The tropical shirt retailer’s 14 (and counting) island stores with restaurants generate 2.5 times the sales of their regular retail locations. Furthermore, the company’s restaurants generate approximately 12% of Tommy Bahamas’ total annual revenue of $452 million. In the company’s new fifth avenue store there is a restaurant on one floor and a bar on another, perfect for that shopping break. Also notable is Tommy Bahamas’ focus on quality, delicious offerings, in contrast to the sub-par food court offerings you would find in the average mall. Check out this commercial of their Myrtle Beach in-store restaurant:

The idea here is that the restaurant is an extension of your brand and the quality needs to be consistent with your retail offerings. CEO of Tommy Bahamas, Terry Pillow describes the reaction fellow CEOs have had to their restaurant-retail concept:

“Fellow CEOs are fascinated first of all that we have it and the second thing they’re fascinated about is that we run it ourselves.”

Indeed in the rise of the hybrid restaurant-retail concept, the trend is for the retailer to run their own restaurant, rather than having it as a concession. One of my favorite clothing retailers Urban Outfitters, have followed suit introducing restaurants into their two Terrain branded home and garden stores. These restaurants play on the popularity of farmers’ markets offering locally sourced food, to give customers a different experience and menu depending on the locale. Terrain’s president Wendy McDevitt acknowledges the lure of the retail-restaurant concept:

“The one thing you can’t get in the cyber world is the tactile experience, and that won’t go away. Food is becoming bigger in terms of entertainment value.”

The in-store restaurant concept is also a great way to increase the amount of time each customer spends in the store. McDevitt estimates that if customers typically spend up to 90 minutes browsing, this can double to 3 hours if stop for a glass of wine or lunch.

Other stores increasing their restaurant-retail offerings include Nordstrom, who are adding contemporary diners and espresso bars to their current eatery options and JC Penney who plan to add juice bars and coffee shops to hundreds of their stores over the next few years.

I think the in-store restaurant concept if executed well could be very successful for a number of retailers, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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Traditionally companies communicated with customers through outbound marketing channels, blasting advertising messages at their potential customers. In recent years the rise of social media has enabled companies to have more of a conversation with their customers. New start-up AdYapper continues the inbound marketing trend by providing a channel for companies to get feedback on their television advertising campaigns. As a one-way communication medium, television-advertising feedback is typically limited to focus groups and sales analysis, but this could change.

So What is AdYapper.com?

AdYapper offers a platform to enable advertisers to gain opinions on their commercials. Brands can verify their accounts and obtain consumer feedback on their commercials. The site offers the opportunity for marketers to gain greater insights to avoid wasting money on campaigns that don’t engage the public. AdYapper aims to empower consumers to hold advertisers accountable by sharing their thoughts. Consumers can view commercials and click if they loved it, hated it or were indifferent to it and give their opinions. Consumers can also upload ads from YouTube, and give their opinions even if the brands have not joined the site. Current commercials on AdYapper include campaigns from Coca Cola, eBay, Adobe, and Nike.

The Challenge

I love the concept of providing a forum for brands to get consumer feedback on their commercials, but the challenge will be getting consumers to want to “yap”. AdYapper may need a compensation type program similar to e-rewards.com, where consumers could receive points towards gift cards or monetary compensation for viewing sponsored commercials. Another challenge for AdYapper will be how they can make money from the site. The start-up may need to keep some of their data private in order for it to be of enough value to sell to marketers. They may also need to start collecting demographic data from consumers, as currently the site only requires Facebook or Twitter log on and an e-mail address.

AdYapper offers an innovative way to transform television marketing in to an inbound marketing opportunity. Some refining will be needed to entice consumers to participate to gain enough feedback to be truly valuable to marketers. Time will tell if AdYapper could become like Yelp for TV commercials, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Recently I was fortunate to go to a Women in Technology event, which hosted guest speaker Nora Denzel. Nora Denzel has over twenty years tech experience having previously been a Senior VP for both HP and Intuit. Nora currently serves on three boards and has been named one of the top 25 women engineers (2012) by Business Insider, one of the top 20 CMOs by Exec Rank (2012), one of the Top 20 computer storage movers and shakers and a SJ Business Journal Woman of Vision. As a key speaker at the Women in Technology event she shared 10 things women do to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to their careers. I related to many of Nora Denzel’s lessons of how to avoid these pitfalls and wanted to share them on my blog, for others to learn from.

1. Control your career PR agent

Nora asserts that every statement we make at work is a press release. When someone compliments you for a great presentation, don’t fall into the trap of pointing out things that could have been done better, as to do so sends the press release “I’m not as competent as you thought”. A far better response when given a compliment is just to say thank you. If you still want to do a post-mortem of all your mistakes save it for a friend or family member or that unfortunate person stuck sitting next to you on a flight.

2. Feel comfortable being uncomfortable

If you have taken on a challenging new role it is normal to be uncomfortable and if you hope to have a challenging career you need to get used to it. A learning curve is at play here and you need to give yourself time to adjust. If after 6 months you still feel uncomfortable, reevaluate at that time if you are in the right position. 

3. Learn how to act

No matter how scared you may feel, learn how to act confident to conquer your fears and appear competent to others. Nora once met NASA astronaut Sally Ride. Sally admitted to having being scared walking into the shuttle about to go into space, yet you would never have known this from watching Sally’s confident demeanor at the time.

4. Attitude is everything

Often we are told that a career path is linear, yet the reality is that career paths often resemble obstacle courses. Having a positive attitude is key to overcoming career challenges and soaring in the face of adversity.

5. Kill Miss Congeniality

At times in the workplace women may be selected for certain gender-specific tasks such as baking a birthday cake. Nora asserts that unless you enjoy such a task don’t take it on. If you do it once you’ll be expected to do it again. Miss Congeniality does not get the corner office.

6. Lighten up and separate

How someone behaves at work may not be a true reflection of who they are as a person. At work everyone plays their role, it’s not personal its just business. Learn to laugh things of and lighten up when you feel insulted.

7. Learn how to ask

Many opportunities are not advertised. Ask questions to achieve your goals. Want to go on an international assignment? Say so to your manager. That way if one were to open up your manager may suggest you, if they already know you’re interested. There is not always a sign up sheet to allow for the most qualified, most suited person to be fairly chosen, so be proactive.

8. Aim high

Where do you want to be ten years from now? Tell your manager(s) your big career goals, to foster a productive career discussion. People tend to be better editors than they are creators and can give you some great advice if you give them some ideas to work with.

9. Embrace criticism

Criticism can be hard to take, often resulting in defensive behaviors, as the recipient feels attacked. Feedback is actually very valuable and necessary in order to grow and develop. To get this feedback you need to view criticism as an area of opportunity. Thank the person giving it so they feel comfortable, then ask clarifying questions to encourage them to fully expand on their thoughts. To solicit feedback when it is not offered consider asking your manager a question such as “how does my performance differ from what is expected at the next level?”

10. Remember what you’re judged on

Results are ultimately what matters most, so always keep the end in mind.

To learn more about Nora Denzel I would actively recommend you visit her website.

In the last few years the business press has been inundated with stories of business failure. In this post I want to write about a business that has continued to soar in spite of the challenging economic environment: Five Guys.

Five Guys is a fast food franchise restaurant company that focuses on hamburgers and fries. In 2012 the company’s sales are expected to exceed $1 billion and Five Guys was recognized as the fastest growing US restaurant chain by Nation’s Restaurant News. In the past year Five Guys’ sales have grown 31.84% with unit growth of 24.73%. The company now has over 1000 restaurants across the U.S. and Canada with plans to expand overseas to the UK in the upcoming year.

Here are five reasons for Five Guys’ success:

1. Word of Mouth Marketing: There are no Five Guys restaurants in my area yet, however this restaurant has gained a cult following similar to that of In & Out Burger, so it’s hard not to have heard about them. Recently on a trip back from California my husband and I stopped at the one in Roseville a few miles off the freeway, to see what the fuss was all about. Surprisingly it lived up to the hype! Five Guys are a word of mouth phenomenon, having built their brand on customer referrals and media reviews. Even the Kardashians have promoted Five Guys for free! As these tweets show: 

2. Simplicity: Five Guys have a very simple menu, but it is this simplicity that is key to their success, as Inc. columnist Jeff Haden acknowledges:

“They don’t try to be all things to all people, they sell to people who want a great burger. They’ve identified a market big enough that they can do that.”

3. Top Notch Ingredients: Five Guys are focused on offering a quality product made using the best ingredients. Even though this causes high costs and higher than average prices, the great food justifies it and keeps customers coming back. This focus on food quality differentiates Five Guys from many of their fast food competitors and has earned them numerous cuisine awards including Zagat survey appearances every year since 2001.

4. Treat Customers Right: Fast food restaurants are not necessarily known for good service.however Five Guys may be the exception. On entering the Five Guys restaurant in Roseville an employee took the initiative to approach us and ask if we’d been to a Five Guys before. On learning that we hadn’t, the employee took the time to explain how the orders worked, available topping options and portion sizing. Five Guys’ focus on their customers extends to their public acknowledgement that their success is dependent on their patrons. Check out this sign posted in many of their restaurants:

5. Treat Employees Right: Five guys CEO Jerry Murrell, advocates treating both employees and customers’ right. This approach is very reminiscent of the fast food restaurant described in Greg Blencoe’s SuperManager book which I reviewed in a past post. Employees are paid above minimum wage and many of the restaurants offer health insurance to crew members, which is outside the industry norm. Even more surprising the company does little advertising in order to give employees bonuses. 

Five Guys have soared in recent years and time will tell if their success can be sustained. But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. And if you haven’t been to Five Guys, visit their website to find your nearest restaurant.

As smart phones have grown in popularity, cellular network capacity has become increasingly stretched. As a result an alternative is needed to meet bandwidth demand. Hello, Wi-Fi. Today many cell phone carriers have Wi-Fi offload plans to limit the cost of expanding their capacity.

Take AT&T for example, the large carrier has set up approximately 30,000 of its own hotspots in Starbucks, McDonald’s and other public facilities in part to satisfy its subscriber’s media data network demand.

Small carriers however, are taking a more innovative approach to sourcing Wi-Fi capacity, by using a software called Devicescape. San Bruno, CA company Devicescape has identified an untapped opportunity to utilize unprotected public hotspots to expand cellular network capacity. David Fraser, CEO acknowledges this opportunity:

“There’s a huge network that’s been hiding in plain sight… Why not use it?”

How it Works

Devicescape have created a continually updated database of unsecured Wi-Fi routers owned by businesses and organizations. This database of usable hotspots is growing at a rate of 25,000 spots per day. Currently Devicescape has a database of 9 million unprotected hotspots. Devicescape’s software has been sold to mobile carriers such as MetroPCS and Republic Wireless. These carriers then install Devicescape software onto their network’s handsets. When these carrier’s subscribers make calls (unbeknownst to them) in many cases the Devicescape software will automatically detect and connect to a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot with available bandwidth.

Benefits of Devicescape’s Approach

Devicescape offers significant client benefits enabling approximately 40% of their mobile data to utilize Wi-Fi hotspots. While customers won’t necessarily know the difference, Wi-Fi is typically faster and more reliable reducing connection disruptions.

Threats of Devicescape’s Approach

If every carrier adopted this software, many public free Wi-Fi hotspots would get flooded with users, slowing access speeds. This could then lead to greater use of password protection, reducing the number of hotspots available.

There are also legal risks surrounding the Devicescape software. Harold Feld Senior VP of Public Knowledge a digital rights group, acknowledges that while Wi-Fi siphoning is probably not illegal, it is nevertheless a gray area:

“It’s like a limo pulling up in front of a soup kitchen for the free food.”

Devicescape has been careful to measure hotspot traffic to avoid already overburdened Wi-Fi hotspots. Nevertheless, the company has received complaints from some business owners. In response to such complaints Devicescape’s database has been amended accordingly to abandon using those hotspots. So far this response has been sufficient and the company has not yet been sued. 

Mobile data traffic is expected to increase 78% a year through 2016. With increasingly scarce network capacity in busy (city) areas, Wi-Fi can enable cell phone carriers to offer additional bandwidth without substantially raising costs. Time will tell if Devicescape’s approach can be sustainable, but given AT&T’s increasing purchase of Wi-Fi hot spots; the use of Wi-Fi offloading by cellular carriers looks set to continue.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you’ve been to any popular tourist spot, chances are someone on your Facebook friends list has too. After all what frequent Facebook user hasn’t seen a friend’s vacation snap shots of somewhere they themselves have been at some point? Frequently people posts pictures in front of popular tourist haunts such as the Statue of Liberty, Buckingham Palace, with Mickey and Minnie at a Disney theme park or even with that Times Square cowboy. Perhaps such pictures are even better shots than yours. Maybe your Facebook friend had better weather; which lets face it is very possible with the Buckingham Palace example. With so many people having similar vacation experiences, which are now more visible than ever before, it may be harder than ever to have bragging rights when it comes to travel.

An article in the July 23, 2012 edition of Fortune Magazine, suggests that there is a growing trend of one of a kind travel experiences. The article claims that a growing number of companies in the travel industry are starting to offer travel experiences that go beyond generic tourist spots. Here are some company examples:

Frommer’s Remix: this successful travel guide company now offers itinerary creation based on destination preference and interests. Users even receive a custom-made book containing maps to the different activities based on the hotel they are staying at.

An AirBnB option in France, image courtesy of Pinterest

AirBnB: back in May I featured a blog post on AirBnB, a San Francisco start-up, which offers a wide variety of things to rent. The website’s diverse offerings include interesting places to stay and unique activities. There’s an experience for almost any budget. You can go on a street food tour of London with locals or go to an urban rooftop farm in New York or an architecture exhibition in Munich; the options when you think outside the box are endless.

Fortnighter: New York company Fortnighter utilizes the talents of over 100 freelance travel writers’ local knowledge to create custom itineraries based on a user’s interests and preferences. This company custom designs trips of any length and can even help you decide where to go. Here is an example:

“One client asked the company to structure a three-week road trip through New Zealand. He had heard of caves full of mesmerizing glowworms but didn’t know any details, so Fortnighter’s writer did the research, tracked down an outfitter to escort him through the caves, and found hotels for 10 stops along the way.”

Essentially the company creates customized vacations based on local knowledge to save people hours of research.

One&Only Resorts, image courtesy of Pinterest

One&Only Resorts: One&Only Resorts is an upscale hotel company that tries to create memories by surprising its guests. The company’s concept is based on details, if a guest mentions a favorite food or song, the company will find a way to surprise them accordingly, perhaps by playing that song at dinner and serving that favorite food item. Essentially this concept reminds me of creating magical moments, something I did in my days as a Disney cast member.

Based on a True Story: An option for the millionaires out there, Based on a True Story organizes just a few dream come true trips each year. Here is the description of what they offer:

“We take our clients to the most secluded, untouched and awe-inspiring locations on earth and create… a magic-carpet-ride of exclusive experiences…  all in utter privacy. A travel experience that is individually created and truly yours alone. Our holidays provide strategic and seamless discovery, encompassing an eclectic range of incredible events and activities enriched by exceptional private chefs, slick logistics and utterly exclusive and authentic accommodation.”

One group of past clients were enjoying a bonfire after a South African safari, only to be surprised by Zulu tribes people performing a battle and drum performance. Based on a True Story trips include a professional photographer who helps to create a book of the once in a lifetime experience.

What do you think of the growing trend of experiential vacations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This weekend while visiting the bay area, my husband and I went to the LA Galaxy vs San Jose Earthquakes sold out (55,000 tickets) soccer game at Stanford Stadium.

6 p.m. on the evening of the event, an hour before kick off we were only a mile from the event’s dirt parking lots. We turned on to the final street the Embarcadero, to find traffic that resembled a parking lot.

7 p.m. game start time, the fly by goes over our heads. We had moved maybe about 0.4 of a mile in an hour. By 7:30 p.m. we could see parking in the distance, SUVs were mounting the curb to cross over the street, while other people were doing illegal u-turns just to get to the event.

The Stanford Stadium event organizers appeared to have neglected logistics. There was no one to direct traffic, no police, no cones, nothing. It was not until we pulled onto the dirt lot that we found a few disorganized attendants attempting to direct people on a car-by-car basis. The radio commentators acknowledged that a lot of people were struggling to get into the event, but quickly changed the subject by talking about how amazing the event was, as if it didn’t matter that a lot of people had bought tickets for a game they would be lucky to see half of.

We finally made it to the event at 7:45 p.m. The traffic was still deadlocked behind us and once parked people were running to the stadium. The final mile had taken over 1 hour 45 minutes, which seems unbelievable even 3 days later; but yes this seriously happened! We made it to our seats in time for the second half.

Here are some comments from various Yelp reviewers on getting to this event:

“Stadium gets 4 stars… if you were able to teleport there magically… Whoever manages the events here deserves to be criminally charged with something… When you approach the stadium there are no signs and no one directing traffic… I have never seen a stadium with such a pathetic and chaotic parking situation… I ended up missing half the game (as did thousands of others as there was still a long line of cars as I made my way into the stadium)…
 It felt like no real thought had gone into how this parking situation was going to work.”

As a result of the traffic situation, the event’s vendors likely missed out on concession and retail sales. When you arrive at an event so late, shopping or stopping at food stands is not an option for many people who just want to see what’s left of the game.

On a more positive note the second half of the game was AWESOME! Two goals were scored, it was really entertaining and there was a great atmosphere. David Beckham randomly started a fight with an Earthquakes player, illustrating the rivalry of the two teams; it was constant action and time flew by. The game ended with a large firework display, which was not bad at all.

My take away from this, is that when organizing an event with 55,000 people expected, you need to think of the details and plan for different scenarios of what will and what could happen and figure out the logistics. Work with the police to organize a traffic system, put up signs and have people there to direct the traffic. Make sure to communicate the traffic situation so that people coming from out-of-town, know to allow hours to get there. Stanford Stadium hosts many large events and have tennis championships coming up. Hopefully they will do a better job at future events of coordinating traffic to ensure people get to see the full event they have paid for.

Attended any badly organized events? Share your experiences and tips on event organization in the comments section below.

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