Cable’s Best and Brightest in Retail

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Cable’s Best and Brightest in Retail

With the battle for subscribers becoming more intense, cable operators are increasingly turning their sights to a critical site for attracting or retaining customers: the retail selling floor.

Bearing that in mind, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s CTAM Summit planning committee decided this year to put out a call for the best and brightest in retail-marketing programs.

Hence, the organization, after overseeing its Customer Retention Case Study Competition the past two years, has created the CTAM Retail Case Study Competition this time around.

The competition, open to industry operators, programmers and vendors, drew more than 35 entries during the submission period between April 5 and May 21, with each of three categories drawing more than 10 entries.

This year’s winning case studies will be shared during a breakout session at the Summit in Boston on July 19 from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. The winners will be honored during the first 10 minutes of the session, which will then expound upon the strategies, programs, partnerships and best practices that have made and are making a difference. You can read more about the 2004 honorees in the pages that follow.

Hallmark Channel’s Holiday Sweepstakes

Last Christmas season, Hallmark Channel had a couple of big items on its holiday wish list. The network wanted to vault itself into basic-cable’s top 10 in terms of total-day viewership, while at the same time driving traffic and transactions for sister company Hallmark Gold Crown Stores.

With Hallmark’s Hollywood Holiday Sweepstakes, the service, focusing on an original movie-theme promotion was able to accomplish both feats and earn a first-place distinction in the CTAM Retail Case Study Competition for a program network.

To meet those challenges, Hallmark Channel and the 4,300 Hallmark Gold Crown Stores around the U.S. partnered on the sweepstakes, which ran last November and December. The promotion, developed by senior vice president of marketing Laura Masse and her team, in conjunction with executives from the retail outlets, offered the grand prize winners a trip to Hollywood, $25,000 and a walk-on role in a Hallmark Channel telepic, plus $100,000 in cash awards, keepsake ornaments, store gift cards and holiday CDs.

The sweepstakes centered on getting consumers to watch five Hallmark holiday-themed original movies and to call a toll-free number that appeared during A Time To Remember, A Christmas Carol, Scrooged, Christmas Visitor and A Season of Miracles. Members of Hallmark Gold Crown Stores loyalty programs were entered into the sweepstakes with a swipe of their store cards.

To get the word out, Hallmark engaged in national off-channel advertising aimed at light viewers of the channel. This effort aimed to build awareness for the network and draw viewers to the films, as well as expose them to promos for its “bread-and-butter” programming as a motivation for repeat viewing.

At the retail level, the sweepstakes was promoted in-store, online and through store mailings. Moreover, the stores and the sweepstakes benefited from affiliate cross-channel spots, while participating MSOs gained exposure from in-store materials touting their products and services.

The upshot for Hallmark Channel: the network attracted 12 million viewers leading to a slew of ratings records in December, which helped push it into the top 10 in total day. More importantly, many viewers stuck around as the network became a permanent fixture in the top 10 with that measure. With 114 systems on board, Hallmark said some 24 million subs were reached through promotion and local ad-sales efforts, which brought in new advertisers and stoked double-digit CPM increases.

For the retail outlets, spending per sweepstakes participant grew 5.8% over 2002 levels, with card purchases up 6.6%. The sweepstakes program also helped increase loyalty program membership by 43% and boosted the number of males visiting the shops significantly. In fact, 38% of shoppers of Hallmark holiday shoppers were men, a percentage that opens up new opportunities for the chain, according to retail executives.

Consumers and cable affiliates can look for a reprisal of the Hollywood sweepstakes this holiday season, according to Masse.

Time Warner Cable’s Wilmington Winner

It was July 2001, and Tom Smith, vice president of marketing for the Eastern Carolina Division of Time Warner Cable, was concerned that a traditional reliance on customer-service representatives would not stimulate the customer demand necessary for the multiple high-speed data providers, video-on-demand products, digital video recorders and telephony services the MSO would soon be offering.

Smith, based on the relative ineffectiveness of experiences CSRs had in describing and explaining digital-cable and Road Runner launches, concluded that the introduction of more complex and diverse product lines would be better served through increased customer interaction. That way, subscribers would have a better chance of understanding and experiencing the available features.

Smith also wanted something tangible as a means of competing with direct-broadcast satellite providers whose products were on display at many retailers.

Enter Jeffrey Taylor. The MSO employee, after making some initial performance projections about advanced products based on customer interaction at payment lobby window at Time Warner’s local office, spearheaded a local retail initiative that resulted in the opening of a 4,500-square-foot store in Westfield Shoppingtown Independence Mall in November 2002. The impact this store has had on Time Warner’s Wilmington, N.C., system and its customers merited a first-place award in the CTAM Retail Case Study Competition for an MSO or distributor.

Measuring the period January 2003 through April 2004, the Time Warner Cable Store — which operates seven days a week with a staff of 12, including store manager Taylor — has driven high numbers of digital cable, high-speed data and DVR sales relative to call center and other means of communications.

During 2003, the outlet was responsible for incremental gains of 4,191 digital packages, 1,263 high-speed data customers and 1,958 DVR units, respectively.

Those trends continued into this year with the store responsible for 2,325 digital packages, 489 high-speed entries, 786 DVRs and 197 taking up the MSO’s HDTV offerings (which became available in February) through April.

The store accounted for 49.1%, 20%, 64.6% and 40.2% of the sales of those respective services in the year-to-date span.

Time Warner also found an unexpected benefit: customer retention. The store’s capacity to resolve customer complaints and reduce downgrades and disconnects has proven to be extremely favorable. Moreover, the store has curtailed the need for an estimated 5,000 annual truck rolls. Additionally, the store has become a tourist spot of sorts, attracting Time Warner customers from outside the division and other MSOs, including those served by Comcast Corp., Adelphia Communications Corp., Cox Communications Inc., and Charter Communications with questions about digital cable and HSD.

Big Game for TWC, Pioneer Was Super

It’s called the Big Game, and Time Warner Cable wanted to capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in big-screen televisions.

Working with Pioneer Electronics, the MSO, in select markets, developed a multi-pronged promotional package from December 2003 through February 2004 aimed at driving sales of HDTV sets and attracting customers to the cable company’s digital-cable offerings during the holiday period and as a lead-up to Super Bowl XXXIX this past Feb. 1.

For its work in developing the various materials and tactics that cut through the clutter of the busiest season at retail and on television, and generated strong consumer response to HDTV, Time Warner Cable has been awarded second place in the CTAM Retail Case Study Competition for the MSO/distributor category.

Time Warner executive Jim Doolittle and his team helped craft a program designed to generate new digital-cable subscriptions and retain customers, while attaching the MSO’s name to HD sales during the holiday selling season as a means to compete for share against satellite providers.

To engender this mindset in the minds of consumers — as well as retail employees, who play an integral role in consumers’ on-floor purchasing decisions for hardware and service — the operator employed a number of tactics, including a $500 cash rebate on a Pioneer HD set, six months of free Time Warner HD service, six months of a free digital converter and free installation from the operator.

Focusing on high-end HD sets that cable customers are likely to purchase, the effort sought to leverage Pioneer’s retail strength during the peak season for consumer-electronics purchases. Along those lines, Time Warner developed 30-second spots sounding the promotional message, while Pioneer bought spot cable, featuring commercials tagged with the MSO’s moniker.

The CE company also placed co-op ads with various retailers in Sunday circulars. Last January, the MSO mailed information about the aforementioned offer to 4.5 million of its customers in select markets.

At the store level, Time Warner and Pioneer developed point-of-purchase materials trumpeting the offer and educating consumers about HD’s benefits.

The integrated effort resulted in Time Warner Cable’s HD households more than doubling during the promotional period, and call volume to the campaign’s 800-number increased 250% during the week preceding the National Football League’s championship game.

Overall, Time Warner Cable officials said the HD retail promotion broke even within its first month. Time Warner Cable executives believe that survey results in concert with industry feedback suggesting the promotion could become a blueprint in many ways for future promotions with the CE industry.

Reaching Hispanics Via Retail in L.A.

Reaching Latinos in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire markets has been quite challenging for cable operators over the years. Satellite penetration has been strong, particularly for EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network, and area MSOs’ efforts with traditional consumer-acquisition tactics have often proven ineffective.

In fact, while Hispanics represent 36% of households in these areas, Latinos constitute 40% of non-subscriber households.

In an effort to fortify cable’s mindshare with area Latinos and ultimately enhance subscriber growth in this target group, Adelphia Communications Corp., Charter Communications Corp, Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable are teaming on a joint initiative to develop, launch and manage key sales partnerships with top Hispanic retailers in the market. Although the endeavor is in its early stages, the promise it offers is so compelling in Los Angeles and environs that it has earned a second-place award in the CTAM Retail Case Study Competition for MSO/distributors.

The ops’ L.A. retail efforts were first manifested at Dearden’s, a seven-location general department store servicing Latinos, in May. There, consumers can find a service map and zip code lookout chart to see which operator services their neighborhood. The partners have developed point-of-purchase materials touting the value of targeted Latino-aimed channels; static cling-ons affixed to the corner of TV sets offering $35 off the set price with the purchase of cable service; and consistent promotional offers from the MSO quartet.

In addition, the operators have funded print ads for inclusion in retail circulars in exchange for cross-channel ad support, as well as publications like La Opinion.

To coordinate their efforts, reduce cost and minimize risk, the operator group retained Sand Cherry Associates for overall project management. Each MSO identified a cross-functional team providing interface in terms of sales, marketing, customer operations and legal. Denver-based Sand Cherry also is engaged in retail targeting and negotiations, while Hispanic ad shop Castells y Asociados is handling all marketing communications and retail merchandising. At the floor level, Campaigners is providing ongoing employee training to sell cable products, and is also working store detailing.

At press time, Duane Dick, senior partner at Sand Cherry, indicated that Curacao, a four-store Hispanic consumer-electronics chain, would join the program by the end of July. He added that conversations with a pair of other chains are underway. As the program grows and the number of retailers increases, the four MSOs — based on a similar effort by Comcast from last August through October, during which it added 85 customers per month — are hopeful that they can collectively add 500 new subscriber households per month by the fourth-quarter holiday buying season.

Down the road, the partners peg the total annual incremental subscriber opportunity at upward of 5,000.

A Big 'POP’ From Comcast Media

Since many consumers select their high-definition programming provider when they purchase their HD set, the Comcast Media Center wanted to be in position to better influence that call by imparting dedicated information on the retail sales floor.

In a test of its narrowcasting service, a server-based national distribution platform that conveys targeted content, Comcast delivered point-of-purchase marketing messages to two electronics stores in the Denver DMA and wound up dramatically lifting its HD sales in the market, while generating great awareness among those expressing future purchasing intentions. For these and other reasons, the work of Leslie Russell, vice president, sales and marketing, and others at Comcast Media Center will be honored with a first-place distinction in the CTAM Retail Case Study Competition in the manufacturer/retailer/other vendors category.

To gauge consumer response to its narrowcasting system, Comcast worked with Ultimate Electronics’ Soundtrack stores to measure the platform’s effectiveness against Premier Retail Networks, the dominant in-store system in the field, sans many of the customizable features. Each of the information providers worked in a pair of outlets, with Comcast Media Center tapping an upgraded store and an older one grounded in dated infrastructure.

Comcast Media Center created two channels to run in the stores. Its “Primary” channel, featuring Comcast HD fare from HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, PBS, Starz Encore and INHD, ran on the video wall. This feed, which ran in both outlets, also featured a call to action tag for the MSO’s HD service that popped up on the screens for 7.5 seconds every 1 to 2 minutes.

Conversely, the “Comcast” channel was only available in the upgraded store and specifically promoted its HD offering on a 50-inch plasma screen set that was prominently positioned on an end-cap, just outside of the outlet’s “HDTV room.”

The content there featured six segments combining consumer education and messages about the ease and convenience of a Comcast installation.

Both of the stores engaged with Comcast Media Center were also supported by marketing materials bugling an HD offer.

Subsequently, Comcast Media Center personnel interviewed consumers that signed up for Comcast’s HD service and visited the store showcasing the Comcast channel during the pilot period, from March 1 through April 30. These narrowcast findings were then measured against pretrial research.

Needless to say, the MSO was pleased by a fourfold increase in the number of HD sales during the pilot period, which was deemed a slow one for retail. When adjusted for seasonality, annual sales would have grown at a five times pace, according to Comcast officials. All of the takers were from Comcast households, with 86% already taking the digital package and the balance on board with analog.

Additionally, the pilot narrowcasting program scored well among other shoppers as 74% noticed the HD display in the upgraded store. Some 51% of those interviewed said they were “very likely” to buy cable HD service when they purchase a new HDTV set, while 18% were “somewhat likely.” Moreover, consumers left with a number of HD impressions: the clarity of picture, the growing number of programmers in the space and the service’s availability from Comcast.

Cox Tweaks Retailer’s Kiosks in Phoenix

In October of 2002, Cox Communications Inc. successfully completed a test of four different versions of branded interactive demonstration kiosks for its high-speed Internet service in the Phoenix market — or so it thought.

Cox then committed to rolling out the different units to retailers in its other 26 markets.

But there was one problem, though: Circuit City could not use either of the counter-top units created by Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc. Hence, the Grafton, Wisc., designer and producer of in-store marketing materials, which also works with such major retailers as Wal-Mart Stores, Best Buy and Staples, among others, had to reformat the kiosk.

For its subsequent redesign efforts with the MSO and the electronics chain, FMA is the recipient of a second-place award in the CTAM’s Retail Case Study Competition in the manufacturer/retailer/vendor category.

FMA faced a number of redesign challenges, notably in terms of maximizing space for Circuit City while maintaining Cox’s branding and product message from the original look. To help minimize costs, where possible FMA had to use parts and elements from the original units for production efficiencies. It also had to provide Circuit City with a model that required minimal on-site assembly and setup.

After visiting a number of Circuit City locations, FMA senior vice president of marketing Dave Zoerb said the company was able to re-engineer the Cox-branded, high-impact polystyrene header to fit the extant Circuit City header system, removing the previously attached poles. While FMA changed the color from Cox blue to Circuit City grey, it used the same screened wood and Plexiglas materials. The in-store specialist also added a 48-inch by 24-inch high-impact skirt graphic to attach to the extant counter under the kiosk unit and redesigned the wood counter shape to accommodate the demonstration hardware.

These design modifications to the Cox HSI displays earned FMA a Gold Outstanding Merchandising Award at the recent Point of Purchase Advertising International competition. This program is one of 43 international entries eligible for the Display of the Year Award that will be part of the upcoming “Advertising Week” festivities that will be held in Manhattan this September.

More importantly, Cox reordered additional units last March to accommodate more Circuit City locations in other markets.

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