opinion

Are You Allowed To Be My Customer

Kelly Shibari

All that talk about friends and six degrees of separation in last month’s article got me thinking how this might apply towards business models.

So often we see and hear political arguments, where people brand themselves as being affiliated with one party or another. That was the way for the longest time … although lately, I’ve been hearing terms such as “conservative liberal” and “liberal conservative”. It’s not “undecided,” but a decision of the individual that they agree with some things that a party stands for, but not others. Believe in the right to bear arms, but still want to give women the right to choose? Want prayer in schools but believe in gay marriage? That sort of thing.

Becoming as flexible as the potential consumer means that they will become more intrigued with all of the options you provide — leading to better brand recognition.

It’s interesting. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a step in the right direction. It says, “I’m not a lemming, and just because my father/grandfather/greatgrandfather was a Republican, it doesn’t mean I am one too. I have my own opinions about things that are based on my own life experiences, and I don’t mind standing by those. I agree with some tenets but not others, and that’s totally OK.” I wish more people would be that way.

It should be the same with consumers. Of course, I’m saying this as I type on a Mac — the choice of a group of people who tout how cool it is to own a Mac. But I also use PC products so that I can have the option of using software that isn’t native to Macs. That’s pretty cool as far as I’m concerned.

Allowing people the option to have options is key in a good marketing plan. In the adult market, that means not only should you have a hardcopy retail product such as DVDs, but also the option of VOD, streaming clips, mobile and home delivery rental options. And it doesn’t stop there — making the content available not only in Windows formats as well as Mac formats, but also for portable devices allows a larger demographic of possible customers and clients the chance to choose how they purchase their product.

Is your product not visual entertainment, but more along the lines of apparel, toys, books, and gadgets? Consider how else the item can be purchased and used. Is the item only available in retail stores? Think about online stores. Think about how an item may be historically used, and how it can be modified for a modern clientele with an ever-expanding variety of needs as to use, accessibility, and re-use. Amazon’s Kindle is a great example. The RealTouch is another. Co-branding, product placement, and brandstamping your product into clips, scenes and DVDs may be a great way to get word-ofmouth marketing going. Why not make your product the centerpiece of an entire DVD? A few companies have already done that exact thing.

But it’s not all about going tech with items. Sometimes it’s availability options too. Sometimes it’s as simple as understanding that demographics change, markets shift, and so making your product available in places that aren’t historically where you would see them is a great way to reach a different customer base.

Pop-up stores are becoming increasingly popular for short-term, limited edition sales of products. Nike and Gucci have done that very thing. Temporary in-store square footage rentals are also interesting; The Gap, for instance, recently “rented” a section of their New York retail stores to French fashion boutique Merci, who then in turn “rented” a section of their store.

This sort of collaborative marketing allows customers who are loyal customers of one brand to try out another while feeling as they had not abandoned their favorite brand. If you’re an adult retail store, wouldn’t a pop-up store to showcase smaller, lesser-known brands not be worthwhile?

By pigeon-holing your customer base, you’re denying yourself the ability to have greater appeal, deeper brand loyalty, and ultimately a better bottom line. By telling them where they can find you, and expecting them to do so, may have worked in the ultra-luxury we experienced before the crash — but it doesn’t apply now. Sharing retail spaces and co-branding may be an innovative approach to reaching a new customer base.

By widening the reach of where you can be accessible to the ever-changing customer base, you’re ultimately telling them that they don’t need to conform. They don’t need to only find your products in one area, in one type of store, and only be available in one way. Becoming as flexible as the potential consumer means that they will become more intrigued with all of the options you provide — leading to better brand recognition.

Have you seen any interesting retail strategies lately, especially with the shopping season upon us? Are any retailers sharing spaces, or are you perhaps seeing more kiosks and trial-run stores?

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