reporter's notebooks in a trash can

AI, old sneakers, Walmart’s basket case: The BloomReach Relevance Report

Stop pinching yourself. It really is Friday. (And pinching leaves unsightly marks.) Read the BloomReach Relevance Report instead.

Not just another AI story; OK sort of just another AI story

magnifying glass

We can’t say we’re fans of swinging cats around rooms. (And for the record, we’re dog people.) But Laurence Hart, writing in CMS Wire, has a point about the unending blather about AI, aka artificial intelligence.

It’s beginning to sound like everything is AI. Everybody is on the bandwagon (which is probably driving itself around town), particularly when it comes to talking about how AI is turning marketing upside down — in a good way. Hart bites off the area of enterprise search and the great promise AI brings to the challenges of it.

His take is spot on concerning how hard search is. We might be slightly more optimistic, though, about how far AI has brought search into the future. Sure, Hart is broadly focused on enterprise search and were more narrowly focused on site search, but we’re pretty bullish at this point.

AI in general, and natural language processing in particular, has propelled search to the point where a site search engine can deeply understand a user’s intent and simultaneously understand a website’s content. That’s where the magic happens.

It’s all about speaking your customer’s language, literally, as natural language processing and semantic understanding work to capture connotation, context and intent.

Wal-Mart’s Easter basket case

Easter basket

We somehow like the idea of incorporating Snapchat into Easter promotions, as Retail Dive reports Wal-Mart Stores is doing.

There is something about the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t appeal of Snapchat that reminds us that nothing is permanent; that earthly things aren’t the end-all/be-all. There is something spiritual in there, isn’t there?

Anyway, Retail Dive, as it’s known to do, accompanies the news with some intelligent commentary.

Reaching out to Wal-Mart fans on Snapchat is a smart move, RD says, because with store visits dropping, it’s important for retailers to bring attention to themselves outside of stores.

And to throw our two cents in, it makes sense to be where younger shoppers are. They are quite literally the future of the franchise. Here’s the puzzling thing, though. RD says the Wal-Mart campaign is built around tips on making an Easter basket — including a YouTube how-to video. (Not as in weaving a basket, but as in assembling the Easter morning surprise.)

Really?

We mean, we appreciate the 411, but don’t you pretty much take the stuff you bought your kid and put it in the basket you bought your kid?

Yeah, thought so.

Does this app story pass the sniff test?

Converse All-stars

OK, this Stores story is really about mobile apps and how they apparently can help with conversion. But we’ve got to be honest. What drew us in was the headline. (Good job, headline writer!) Yeah, it was the bit about “sneaker resale marketplace”.

Think about that for a second.

No, we weren’t born yesterday, but used sneakers? These folks obviously haven’t been around some of the sneakers in the closets at our house. Not only that, but the story talks about one pair of used sneakers that is selling for $2,500. They better really help you run your fastest and jump your highest.

Anyway, to get back to the mobile app thing, this story strongly advocates for apps, quoting a figure that says that companies with mobile apps convert three times more product viewers than those that rely only on mobile websites.

It’s a dramatic statistic, but we’d like to see a little more about what’s behind that number. Apps seem especially suited to some types of retail and for selling certain things — like used sneakers, apparently.

For other retailers and products, it’s a high bar to get consumers to download an app and then use it consistently. Generally there needs to be a compelling reason — loyalty features, a strong community (used sneakers anyone?), frequent or habitual use (Starbucks anyone?) etc.

And the high conversion rate needs to stand the chicken-and-egg test. Are the conversions high on an app because it’s an app. Or is it more likely that consumers who actually use an app are committed fans of the brand or product and have a much stronger buying intent as soon as they fire up the app?

Just wondering.

Cutting marketing jargon is an end-to-end win-win

Words

We love Cory Munchbach’s rant on marketing terms that elicit a finger-on-the-chalkboard reaction. We love it mostly because we’ve developed something of a gag reflex of our own when it comes to some of the marketing buzz-phrase standbys. We’re not long past the days where every solution was an end-to-end solution and where every product was a best-in-class product, even when it was a little hard to figure out just what class a given product would be in.

And of course, we’ve long crusaded to put to death the word “omnichannel,” which has proved to be a real cockroach of marketing-speak.

As much as we’re down with Munchbach’s scolding, we’re also honest. And in this case we must be painfully honest. We are not perfect. We are not without sin or stain. We have, in fact, fallen into the lazy ease of reaching for one on of the old standbys. Yes, even omnichannel.

We are not proud of it. We are remorseful. And we’re human. Plus marketers.

Sorry.

Quote of the week

“Most of these people haven’t been interested in e-commerce because e-commerce has been such a small piece of their overall sales. But we’ve reached a tipping point. We’re at a time when companies are ready to start figuring this stuff out.” — Melissa Burdick, vice president of e-commerce at The Mars Agency talked about Amazon’s push to work more closely with consumer package goods companies.

Magnifying glass photo by nathanmac87, Easter basket byJim Trottier, tennis shoes by Sharon Mollerus and words by RCabanilla published under Creative Commons license.  Reporters Notebooks by Mike Cassidy.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.