Category Archives: customer relationship management

State of Mobile, AI and VR Marketing 2017



I was asked to weigh in on three marketing topics for 2017:

  1. The state of mobile
  2. The influence of Artificial Intelligence
  3. The effect of Virtual Reality.

Here are my thoughts:

Mobile : More Total Interactions

Mobile allows marketers to interact with customers in many places throughout the day and purchase journey. The challenge is how to be available and present when needed or wanted without becoming annoying and irrelevant so people tune you out.

Artificial Intelligence: More Efficient Interactions

AI allows firms to spend time and money on the most valuable customers by leaving the lower level customer service issues to a virtual assistant. Marketers can also use AI to identify and qualify best prospects.

Virtual Reality: More Rich Interactions 

VR provides 360 degree experiences for customers in a convenient location that’s fun and interactive. Marketers can leverage these interactions to provide more value or showcase offerings.


Social Media Empowerment?

Can social media give customers power over billion dollar corporations? 

I am pondering this question as I sit in my apartment with the fumes from the off-gassing of the new General Electric Profile oven I purchased from PC Richards.

When the range arrived the delivery man told me that I should run the oven for 20 minutes to rid the surfaces of an oil that is included in the manufacturing. That was quite an understatement. I have now run this oven for 7 hours and it still emits this “oil” in the form of a noxious smoke.  The residue from this process continues to hang in my apartment after attempts to air out the space.  It even set of the smoke alarms in my apartment 8 hours later in the middle of the night when the oven was OFF.

It has been difficult to determine which chemicals are off-gassing from the range, but I am pretty sure it’s not olive oil.   There are complaints online from customers, but prospective buyers only see these when typing in the correct key words – such as toxic fumes.  Consumer Reports did not mention the issue, though there is a forum comprised of angry customers who relied on Consumer Reports to protect them.

So, what can social media do to help?  First, people can blog, Tweet and post about their experiences so that potential customers ask the right questions.  Another option is to file a complaint with to encourage the company to change the practice of loading the ovens with chemicals.


ge range



I should have taken advantage of social media more before purchasing a product I would expect to last many years.  There were numerous reviews of GE ranges on sites such as Best Buy that I could have used to help choose an better oven.

Communicating dissatisfaction to the company via social channels may not help my problem, but can alert the company to consumer dissatisfaction. More formally, I also contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission and filed a complaint.

Social recommendations do influence people’s purchase decisions.  McKinsey studied 20,000 consumer decisions on 30 product categories among European consumers and found that about 26% of purchases were influenced by recommendations. Consumers were influenced most   through direct recommendations   Additionally, first time buyers were more likely to turn to others for advice than those who had purchased before.  I am really wishing I had asked others prior to purchasing rather than trusting a brand.

A number of people have been successful in using social media to change aspects of corporate America, albeit on very small issues. For instance, Molly Katchpole convince Bank of America to eliminate a $5 debit card fee and consumers successfully petitioned on to encourage Pepsi and Coke to remove Brominated vegetable oil from soda.  However, these are small victories that require a lot of commitment and time from individuals.

I am just hoping that there are no long term effects of subjecting myself and my canary to the unknown chemicals in my oven.


Mckinsey Study:

Bank of America


McDonald’s or Wendy’s: Who Manages Issues Better on Mother’s Day? 


Fair Wages

                     Kids at McDonald’s protesting to raise wages.

On Mother’s Day 2015 my 9 year old son and his group from the Workman’s Circle brought cards to the moms working the weekend shift at McDonald’s.  The message was to wish these workers a $15 minimum wage to help them support their families. Armed with a package of pennies my child ordered a cone and began to count them one by one. That’s when the corporate machine jumped into action and gave out free ice cream to all the kids. None of them refused and it became difficult to chant “Justice for workers.”

Foiled at McDonald’s the group moved on to Wendy’s where the manager yelled at them and threatened to call the police. There they stayed fueled from the free ice cream and continued their calls for fair wages for moms.

The kids have a history with Wendy’s because the company has refused to pay an additional penny a pound for tomatoes grown by Florida farm workers.   Looks like Wendy’s should think about a number of their policies.

You may be wondering what this has to do with social media and mobile marketing.  Social issues diffuse more quickly through the population than ever before and customers, when united, can alter long held corporate policies.  Social media can also shed light on issues if people widely share them. has had some big successes in altering corporate policies.  I wish it would start to work for global warming…

Here is a link to the article in the Daily News.

Email Marketing: What Can it Do?

This excellent video explains email marketing and why businesses should consider the strategy.  The video was created by Jennifer Norman, a graduate student in my class: Social Media and Mobile Marketing Strategies. This course is the capstone in Lubin’s MS in Social Media & Mobile Marketing program.

The assignment asked students to create videos around a particular topic.  Students were limited to 7 minutes and could use a variety of media.  Here is the assignment:

Video Presentation Assignment

Each student in the class will create a brief (Max 7 minute) video presentation on a topic related to the content of the course. Please examine the syllabus and determine which weeks you would be willing to do your presentation. In the second week of the semester turn in a list of your top 5 week choices and you will then be assigned one of those weeks for your presentation. Videos are due at 4:30 PM on the Monday before the class meets.

Video Presentation Content

Begin by examining the topic for the week you chose on the syllabus. Each week that we meet online has video topics in parentheses. You will choose ONE topic on which to create a video for the class. I would recommend that you type the words related to your topic into Google to look for interesting research that relates to your topic. One option is to choose a company that you can use as a case study example that helps to illuminate your topic or you can focus on a research study related to your topic. Please be sure to have metrics to make your points if you present company info. Use pictures and give solid examples backed by data when possible.
Guidelines for Videos

  1. Each week that we meet online students will post videos with an in-depth view of a topic. The topics are listed in the syllabus in parentheses with the word video following. Use the text as a starting point for the topic, but consider additional research and examples beyond the text. The video and 1 question are to be posted by Monday at 4:30 the week of your assigned video.
  2. Write a script for your video presentation that explains a particular social media or mobile topic and gives examples with data. You may present research findings, case studies, how-to information, current news (only if really different and interesting), new sites/applications of significant note , best practices or strategies that will be important in the future. Try to find material that is broad based and useful to many industries. Do not pick data that simply update statistics on what we already know, such as how many smart phone users exist.
  3. Choose material that has measurement associated with it. For instance if you choose a case study of a company using social media, make sure you have data to support the effectiveness of the strategy. Please don’t just tell us about cool things you find, though we can talk about these at other times.
  4. Write 1 key question for the class that you will post with your video for people to discuss based on your video. The question can have a few parts, but keep it focused.
  5. Stay current with material from the past year.
  6. Make sure the information you present is legitimate and from a reasonable source.
  7. Present the sources in your post on Blackboard so we know where the information came from.
  8. Upload your video to YouTube and provide the link to the class on Blackboard.

Customer Lifetime Value and Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently wrote to Zappos because a pair of sneakers I bought were not waterproof. In less than 24 hours I received the following response:

Hello Randi,

Thank you for contacting Zappos VIP Customer Loyalty Team. I am Diana, your Email Guru and I’m here to help you today.

I hope you are keeping warm on this chilly New York night. Personally, I find that a mug of hot cider and a fluffy blanket usually does the trick!

I am sorry to hear that the sneakers you purchased from us are not what you were expecting. That’s definitely not something that we like to hear about our merchandise, and is not indicative of the high quality of service and products we strive to provide our customers. I am glad that you wrote us right away so we can immediately address this situation.

Because I would hate for you to wait for your refund as this was unacceptable, Randi, I went ahead and refunded you in full today for this item. Please keep in mind, it can take up to 2-10 business days for the refund to be reflected in your account depending on your financial institution.

I hope this email helps to bring you peace and clarity and if there is anything else we may be able to help you with, please don’t hesitate to let us know!

Thank you so very much from your Email Guru,

Diana S.
Customer Loyalty Representative
Zappos Customer Loyalty Team

It occurred to me that not only was Zappos customizing by my location they were likely determining my value as a customer. Deciding whether I was “worth” a return. By calculating customer lifetime value the brand can estimate a customer’s future profitability and activate an appropriate customer service response. Lucky for me I am a good customer and estimate that I could spend $3,000 with Zappos over the next 20 years. Though that number does not include Zappos’s expenses to serve me it also does not include any positive word of mouth I might generate for the firm, such as this blog post.

The Upsell

Zappos also makes use of email to encourage people to buy more of what it offers.  The email closed with the following:

Did you know sells clothing? Check it out:
Come take a tour next time you’re in Las Vegas:

Zappos could do a better job with this section of the email. I would recommend adding a visual here because  I missed it when I scanned the response.  It is no secret that people do not read their email carefully.

Helpful Tool

Harvard Business School offers a customer lifetime value tool to help determine the dollar value of your customers.  To use the tool you will need to determine:

  1. Number of Purchases per Year
  2. Average Spend per Purchase
  3. Direct Marketing Costs per Customer
  4. Gross Margin
  5. Average Customer Retention Rate
  6. Annual Discount Rate – this figure takes into account the time value of money recognizing that a dollar today is worth more than future dollars.  Some people use the interest rate here.

This is the kind of service people expect and that firms can deliver…to the ‘right’ customers. Zappos customer service is legendary.

How do you feel about Zappos customer service?  Take the poll here: