Tag Archives: Consumer behaviour

UBER where art thou?

As the UBER debate rages across our country and others, I have a few holiday-time stories that make my opinion clear.

The first was early in the month. I was attending an event that gave out taxi chits at the end of the evening, very responsible, very classy. No fewer than three times on the ride home (it was a 10 minute drive) the driver said that I should just give the chit to him and he’ll take care of filling it out. I never said anything, but intending on filling the thing out myself, thinking it only fair considering it wasn’t my money that was footing the bill.

Once we arrived at my house I started filling out the information with every intention of giving a generous by fair tip. However, as soon as the driver noticed this he started yelling and berating me that I should of given it to him to fill out and that I would never get a cab again in my life if I didn’t. I handed him the chit and walked into my house, but the whole situation was fairly unnecessary and unsettling.

Number two was post-Christmas leaving a Jets game. A friend and I were both going to the St. Boniface-ish area and flagged down the closest taxi. When the driver pulled over he wouldn’t unlock the doors, but rolled down the window. When he asked where we were going and was told “St. Boniface” he responded, “Not far enough,” and drove away. We were able to find another cab, but still that is a pretty terrible way to treat potential customers.

The third incident was later that same night. Leaving a different friend’s place I called another taxi, which arrived on time. The driver than proceeded to drive like a maniac to my place, and when I paid I was told that I couldn’t use credit card and he didn’t have any change. He cemented himself a very nice tip.

There are so many similar stories to these and many far worse, which serve as the reason that so many consumers are hoping and praying for the government to get out of the way of UBER. To be fair I understand that the regulations put on taxis are unfair, but by artificially creating a duopoly in the market, customer service and innovation are dead. Having a system like UBER’s could easily have solved all the above issues:

  1. After the holiday party the UBER rides could be automatically charged to the company’s account, eliminating the need for any paperwork to be filled out.
  2. We would have been assigned an UBER car and left them a lousy review if they refused to pick us up.
  3. The payment being done electronically gets rid of the awkward “My card machine is broken” conversation that is part of so many cab rides. Also, I could leave a bad review for the poor driving.

Who knows if and when ride services will be allowed into Manitoba, but I hope they are by the time any kids of mine can drive (probably still a tall order, if past ‘progress’ in this province has been any indication). On top of everything else, it seems like a great way to earn some money for someone with a car.

My Surprise With Kijiji

People love Kijiji. I have to admit that I’ve never really done too much with the website. I bought some camera equipment and a mini-fridge over the past 5 years, but that’s about it. That is, until I started trying to sell a few things.

I’ve been trying to get rid of some stuff lately and along with donations and the garbage, I’ve decided to try throwing a few things up for sale online. Turns out that Kijiji is a bad place for someone like me.

I made the mistake of assuming that everyone acts the same way that I do when on the buy/sell website. The few times that I used it I found the item that I wanted, took a look at what it would have cost new, checked out a few competing prices and then made an informed decision about what I was willing to pay.

What I’ve come to find is that’s not how the majority of people operate.

When moving to the “sell” side for the first time I did some research on the items I was looking to get rid of and attached prices that seemed reasonable to me. Yes they were on the higher side of the range, but I was expecting some haggling and wanted the wiggle room.

What I experienced was nothing close to that.

This is only an educated guess, but from what I gather the though process of the average Kijiji buyer is, “Oh, I like <insert item here>. I’m going to completely disregard the asking price as an indicator of what the seller would consider a starting point and offer whatever amount of money is currently in my couch cushions.”

Most offers that I’ve received have been for less than 50% of the asking price, with the lowest being 20%. To me people have to know that they’re just wasting both our time at a point.

What’s worse is the guy who offered 20% of asking price had the balls to get angry when I didn’t send a counter offer. Does he think I’m a jewelry sales person from an all-inclusive beach? I think he finally got the point when I told him that any offer that I would make depends on the quality of the vehicle, not the arbitrary number that he made up.

I know my experience isn’t isolated, because I have heard similar things from friends and family. They took some time to determine a fair price only to be rewarded with insulting offers.

The worst part is the buyers probably don’t realize the harm that they’re doing the system by acting this way. Now that I know people would rather try and undercut huge rather than buy based on value, next time I list something I’m going to inflate the price enormously in hopes of selling the item for what I wanted in the first place.

The saving grace is finding the one or two people who operate like rational humans and negotiating with them. They are usually good to deal with and at the very least seem to be people who actually want the item, rather than trying to make a quick buy to flip it later.

My Theory on Escalators

I have a theory about escalators and those who use them. If you’ve ever been on, or near, and escalator with me you’ve probably heard this theory. And if you’ve been near one with me more than once you’ve probably heard the theory more than once.

I like to think that the inventor of the escalator had the best of intentions when he or she went about it. They imagined a world where people could get where they were going faster and was able to be more efficient. Same goes for those moving sidewalks in airports.

But then the end users got at the product, and the entire concept was flipped sideways.

Now escalators are used, at best, to be mini-vacations during the day. At worst they’re just another modern invention that is allowing us to be lazy and slowly putting us in an early grave.

Rather than continuing to walk once on the magical moving stairways, most pedestrians come to a grinding halt. Often travelling up slower than if they had just taken the stairs in the first place. And don’t get me started about taking the escalator down. That’s basically like admitting that gravity isn’t enough assistance for you.

Although this little origin story is likely completely fictitious, I seem to have learned a couple lessons from it, regardless.

First, while you may design, build, create or otherwise will into existence something, you will never really know how people will use it until it’s out in the world. I also learned this from Snap It. Apparently if you give a drunken person a button at about waist height, it is very tempting to try and kick it.

To those reading, please don’t kick my button. It really pushes my buttons.

The second lesson is that if you can create something that allows people to be as lazy as possible, then you likely have a winner on your hands.

Expand or Contract

I guess I am technically considered a internet content publisher, regardless of how immeasurably thin my sliver of the pie is. Because of that I often think about the nature of online information consumption and think there are some very counterintuitive things going on.

First is that it would stand to reason that with a world-wide base of information from a larger variety of sources than was ever available to the average person before, we should be expanding our perspectives. I don’t think that’s true, though. The only thing that seems to be happening with the great volume of information at our fingertips is we can now find someone else who agrees with us, no matter what our belief.

In the past I’m assuming it would have been difficult to find others who believed that the government was made up of lizards, because of the constraints of geographic location and cost of widely publishing media. Now, you can find sites galore!

The same goes for other opinions. It’s human nature to seek out confirmation of our own beliefs, which is what we do. If I think one thing I’m very likely to gravitate and appreciate those who agree. Therefore I’ll get further embedded in my own belief, never exploring the other side.

I honestly see this as one of the biggest dangers of our times. There are few things more valuable than divergent opinions, but in this day and age they can be easily ignored and support can be found. Where is the fun in that, though?

Most of the best conversations that I’ve ever had have been arguments. Or debates, if that makes them sound less harsh.

There are few things I like more than talking to an intelligent person with an opinion different than my own. Otherwise I’d probably be going through life based on my initial reactions to everything, which doesn’t seem recommended or healthy. My initial thoughts are often plain terrible.

So rather than going online and only reading things that support your current paradigms, maybe trying to balance your media intake. See what the other side is saying, because there is usually some merit into their way of thinking.

BBM Backlash

Well, BBM is here for iPhones and Androids and there is a very predictable backlash going on: People are very publicly stating all their reasons for wanting to or not wanting to download the program. I really hope this doesn’t become a trend for all apps that are released…

But of course it won’t! The only reason that there is such a strong reaction is because it is a program that RIM put out there for non-Blackberry devices. I think that it is safe to say to all those who are posting passionate comments on Facebook about why they will absolutely never download BBM (even though they have never tried it), is that no one cares. I repeat NO ONE CARES.

I find it hard to believe that anyone has dozens of friends hounding them day in and day out to get on BBM, interrupting meals and keeping the individual up at night. Or strangers stopping them in public to spread the BBM good news. No, this is some oddly pressured decision you have put on yourself and anyone that you currently text with will likely continue to text with you in the future, regardless of your intent to download a free app or not.

What’s more, for some people and businesses, BBM is a program that really could have some use. If Apple or some other company came out with it, it would probably be lauded as the best communication and collaboration app out there, but since it was given to us by the easy-to-hate-for-no-reason RIM, that won’t happen. People’s weird, irrational belief that RIM is the devil and because they make phones that are deemed inferior it is good when the company does poorly and thousands of Canadians lose their jobs.

So if you have no need for a program that allows you to avoid international texting fees, or collaborate and share information with a number of people, then don’t download the program. Believe me, there’s no hard feelings.

Don’t Hate on Multi-Level Marketing

… so long as it’s being done right.

I don’t know the reason, but it seems like I talk about multi-level marketing once a week. When I say “talk about” I mean on a higher, structural level. This is not including the countless Facebook posts and tweets promoting the many product lines that employ the strategy.

From what I gather from my conversations, not many people like multi-level marketing. They don’t like being pitched by friends and don’t think that the products are too good. In fact, there seems to be a wide level of scepticism of everything that is distributed this way. I don’t think that this distrust is completely founded.

From what I can understand, there are many quality products that are sold through these channels. I have friends and family who have bought them and I have yet to hear a specific, product-related complaint. I actually know many who have turned into repeat customers, so there has to be a product quality at least similar to what is available through more traditional channels.

It’s my opinion that when people are sceptical about product quality, the real reason they are being hesitant is that the distribution of the product is coming from someone they know. Not only that, but it is likely that they have at least been aware of (if not pitched) how to join the company as a sales rep. It may be their own narrow definition of how companies should be run that is holding them back. To me, 90% of what is done in a multi-level marketing system is happening in most other companies out there, you just don’t know as much about these companies because they are less front-and-centre.

When you boil it down, what I think the real problem people have with it is that it is selling based on personal relationships, which is an issue you have with a person, not the company. If you know someone who has signed on to be a rep and that’s all they can talk about, I will agree that it gets tiring. Conversely, you probably have friends doing something like this that you would never guess was involved. It is all about the choices of the individual.

People working at “reputable” companies can behave the same way. I really comes down to the discretion of the person doing the selling. I encourage any of my friends who want to try their hand at this particular form of business, but just remember: no means no.

Miley Marketing

That’s right, I’m writing a post about Miley’s performance at the VMAs. Everyone else on the internet is, why not me?

The disclaimer is that I honestly haven’t watched the performance from front to back, but I believe that I have seen enough news clips and memes to get the general picture.

To get it out there, I don’t think that anyone would disagree that what was done was pretty trashy and not the sort of thing that teen girls should be seeing. First off, the fact that a woman who is/was a role model to girls would perform that Robin Thicke song (which I hate and is the absolute wrong message that any little girl or boy should be hearing) is a tell-tale sign of what sort of statement is going to be made here.

Putting aside the actual content of the performance, though, it is hard to argue that it wasn’t effective. Here we are three days later and it’s still being talked about on news sites, social media and over water coolers. In the age where things are old news in roughly an hour, that is quite the feat.

Not only this, but the story has transcended channels, showing up not just as entertainment news, but a leading story. It was on the home page of CNN.com, for goodness’ sake. The same space that is used to announce Presidents, report tragedies and inform the world had Miley twerking on it.

As they say, though, sometimes the ends justify the means and this was a marketing success. We’re the ones that stay interested, so the entertainment world is going to keep giving us what we (apparently) want. No press is bad press and it would be hard to argue that with that performance Miley reached out to a new fan base, beyond teenage girls.

I fully realize that this is a small contribution to the problem. I’m just calling it as I see it, though, and from a purely marketing standpoint it’s hard to say that there wasn’t a level of success. Her having to deal with the fallout of being in what is basically an internationally broadcast strip show is a completely different matter.

So again, you may be like me and don’t personally agree with the style of performance or what this supposed “role model” is doing, but damn sure we’re all going to be watching to see what she does next.

Social Media Strategy

On to day two of my social media rampage…

Last post I wrote about deciding whether or not your company should engage on social media. Now assuming the decision has been made to have your brand on social media, the question is what should you be posting about? While some may subscribe to the “no press is bad press” mentality and post everything they can, I don’t think they’re doing themselves any favours.

Like all marketing and communications, anything posted online should be:

  • On brand
  • Relavent
  • Timely
  • Meaningful

Because of this, there is a certain amount of planning that should go into the process. Determining the brand’s tone and personality will go a long way to helping coming up with appropriate content that is going to enhance your customers’ view of your company, rather than just be noise that is lost in the sea of other worthless posts.

Below are my favourite types of posts:

  • The fun update. If your company, some employees, one of your clients, etc. has something fun and exciting going on, post about it. It’s the most “human” interaction you’re going to get with your followers, because it isn’t usually driven by an agenda and it will be relate-able.
  • Industry news. Posting information related to your industry which your clients would find relevent. This shows that you care about keeping them informed and positions your company as an expert in the field, without having to create any content on your own.
  • Event reminders (sparingly). If you have a big event coming up (holding a conference, Boxing Day Sale, etc.) then using social media to promote is a natural. Just don’t be using it too much, because you could end up burning out your list and having people unsubscribe from your updates.
  • Brand-enhancing randomness. This one is a little tricky, but could be a good filler post. Depending on what your brand is and stands for, some random internet posts could be a good thing. If your a pet groomer and see a funny cat video, why not post it? If your a financial services firm, maybe not. Up to you, but be careful.
  • Created content. I (as a blogger) would rank this as one of the most powerful. If you are able to generate content about your industry internally or through the use of a ghost writer, this is the best kind of post. Drives people to your website, shows you know what you’re talking about, all those good things.

There are also some things on social media that I can’t stand. This is obviously just my opinion, but I can’t really see this doing anything for the companies that put it out:

  • Share / like / retweet contests. This is bad for at least two reasons.
    1. If you think you’re “tricking” people into following you, they’re not the right people. They will unfollow you as soon as you’re not offering anything and won’t have meaningful engagement with your brand. If they don’t like you in real life, it doesn’t really matter if they like you on Facebook. They’re not going to buy.
    2. This is the equivalent of couponing. You’re going to attract price sensitive consumers who are only loyal to who is giving the best deal. I always think of my mom, who only has a Facebook account to enter contests. Hasn’t even friended me yet and never goes on for any other reason.
  • Constant product profiles. If all you’re doing is showcasing your product, people will get annoyed and not pay attention to any of your ads. The occasional product profile is ok, but there needs to be meaningful content along with it.
  • Nothing. If you’re not doing anything, for the love of all is good, close down the page. I would say if you’re not posting something at least once a month, there is little to no use for you to be on social media, so get off.

When coming up with your strategy, just remember it isn’t about posting the most or having the highest number of followers. It’s about meaningfully engaging those who want to be associated with your brand and strengthening your image with them. If you are doing that, then you will continue to attract and engage the right audience.


Scary Social Media

Mainstream social media has been around for a few years and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon. Like all new communication mediums, there is both excitement and anxiety about your company marketing along this new channel. It’s best to step back, take a breath and tell yourself it’s all going to be ok.

First, although it is something new and different, the basic principles of selecting advertising mediums still apply. Every time there is a revolution in information consumption, there are marketing opportunities close behind. In that sense, the recent boom of social media can be likened to the first online advertising, television, radio and even print media. Social media is just the latest in a long line of innovations, but it’s not likely to be the last.

While there may be “marketers” out there using scare tactics to try and make business owners and marketing managers believe that if their company is not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, etc. they are dead in the water, in many (or even most) cases that simply isn’t true. It all comes down to whether or not your customers are using the medium or not.

To put it another way, if the customers you are targeting aren’t going to engage with your company on social media, it doesn’t really matter if you are on it or not. The same way a company doesn’t have to advertise on tv, or in the newspaper, or on the radio, and on and on. It’s that simple.

The thing that sucks people into thinking they need social media, if I were to take a guess, is two things:

  1. The fact it’s free, and;
  2. The fact your customers have the chance to interact with you.

Neither or those are particularly true, nor are they necessarily appealing as they seem.

First, posting online may be free in terms of dollars (though Facebook is trying hard to change this), but there is always a time cost associated with everything that you do as a business owner. If you’re taking the time to come up with meaningful posts, that is time taken away from other tasks, usually in the middle of the day. This time adds up and if none of your clients are on social media, it’s spinning your creative wheels while getting nowhere.

The second fallacy is customer interaction. While it may be true, unfortunately the interaction is usually negative. Few people will take the time to say something positive on a company’s Facebook page, but everyone will post a complaint. This is a public venue and you will want to deal with it quickly, taking up more time in your day.

At the end of they day you need to decide if social media is right for your brand. If you truly thing you will win loyal customers from it, then all the power to you. If you doubt that your market is even paying attention, focus on other efforts and don’t let some marketer bully you into it.

Smartphone Market

For someone who doesn’t really care about owning the newest technology (I’m a use it until it dies type of person), I’m pretty interested in the industry. The smartphone market in particular is fascinating to me.

I think what I love about the market is how dividing it can be among friends. They seem to be one of the only purchases an adult can make where another adult feels it’s completely socially acceptable to publicly criticise and ridicule the purchaser. Not only this, but the personal opinions and preferences of the purchaser never enter into the conversation.

I’m being a little facetious, but just think about how extreme some people are about supporting their particular brand of phone. Phrases like, “I can’t believe you have a…” and “I’ll never not use a…” seem to be fairly common. Many people’s views are extremely finite.

In fact, if you got on the cell phone train in the 90s and always had the most popular phone of the day, you would have ended the sentence “I’ll never not use a…” with: Motorola, Nokia, Motorola (again), Blackberry, iPhone, Samsung Galaxy. That’s more flip flopping than a presidential election (hey-o). What’s more is if we were really being honest, before your first cell phone you probably would have said something along the lines of, “Cell phones are pointless, I’m never going to get one.”

The fact is that there is always a rise and fall to all technologies. The reason that there is such a fast change in the cell phone market is that the typical consumer doesn’t have the phone for more than three years. Then the contract is over and some new, fancier, shinier, more popular phone is on the market.

As I said above, there hasn’t really been a company that has has been able to be on top of the cell phone market for more than 5 – 10 years, at most. This is because being on the top is hard. You have a large, loyal client base and you want to keep them happy, which in most industries means giving them more of the same. Not so for mobile phones.

No, this industry demands innovation, while not alienating your current market. Basically a fool’s errand. I’m not saying it can’t be done, we just haven’t seen a company pull it off yet.

I have no clue what the smartphone market is going to do and anyone who says they do is lying. The only thing I feel comfortable saying is that no platform is going to stay on top forever, so stop being rigid in your views. Odds are we’ll all change between a few different brands throughout our lives, so don’t be hating on the others. You may end up changing over.

Now for a change, I’m actually going to attempt to back up my points (shocking, yes). It’s not scientific, but more than I usually offer.

Motorola – Was huge when cell phones first became popular, with an awesome analog devices. The industry started to go digital and they dug their heels in the ground because so many people were on the analog system. Until they upgraded that is…

Nokia – Digital phones. Had some games, had some media capabilities (remember downloadable ringtones??). More of a footnote than anything, filling the void Motorola refused to enter.

Motorola again – Came back with the Razr, the well-designed, well-marketed flip phone. At this point, though, it was sort of like making an awesome horse and buggy system when Model T’s started rolling off the lines, because people were changing over to…

Blackberry – Invented the smart phone market and increased corporate stress at levels not seen since the first union (kidding if you’re part of a union). Chaining workers to their company email, calendar, etc. was an employer’s dream.

iPhone – Was laughed at by the people at Blackberry, because it was a “toy”. Turns out people wanted that toy. Then businesses wanted that toy. Then businesses started because of that toy.

Samsung Galaxy – Neat-o operating system, first for just nerds, now for everyone. Has a good design and saves people from the rigidity of iOS, if that’ their thing. Also invented the phablet, but we should all make an effort to never use that word again.