A Peek at Tech Trends Impacting the Shopper Experience

Next to the ice cream counter was a 13-year-old boy slowly inching further and further away from his mom while scrolling through the latest photos on his iPhone. A sea of people and ghost plush toys named Snarky surrounded us. We admittedly were intrigued to stop by the Kith Treats store in the new Hudson Yards shopping mall because of its Lebron James flavored ice cream, but others were trickling out from behind closed doors of a ticketed area — Snark Park. The boy told us he had been waiting for months to be a part of this new experience by Snarkitecture, which combines museum-quality installations with exclusive retail. It certainly wasn’t just about the ice cream. 

 

 

When thinking about shopping in America, it’s hard not to go straight to the importance of experience. Whether it’s collaborating with athletes and celebrities to delight your customers with treats or providing a gated, exclusive exhibit — the way that brands get people in the door has forever changed, and with good reason. As we’ve seen from the tsunami of mall closures across America, the convenience of a mall isn’t a driving force like it used to be thanks to Amazon and other direct-to-consumer online brands. To attract customers and build loyalty today, brands have to establish a connection that’s fueled both on and offline and goes beyond the products themselves.

As brands gear up for the 2019 holiday shopping season, here are a few technology trends impacting the shopping experience:

Made for Me: E-commerce subscription box services are mainstream, mostly due to a customer’s ability to try multiple products without a major monetary investment. But they’ve also helped fuel the move to personalization. Whether it be skincare or vitamins designed just for you or a virtual shopper that gets your style exactly right — retailers are focused on drilling down far beyond the age range and location of their customer — and instead to their exact desires. With AI and targeting efforts only improving, we’ll see retailers use technology to reach customers on a more personal level than ever, both in-store and online.  

But is it Instagrammable? The in-store experience isn’t just about providing easily accessible products to people who are browsing or coming to the store with a product purchase in mind — it’s about making people wish they were there, too. For example, at the Hudson Yards mall just about everything is an Instagrammable experience — the artwork between storefronts, the brightly colored stores and entertainment on site — even a climbable landmark! FOMO is all too real for today’s shoppers. 

Frictionless Checkout (Wherever & However): It’s no secret that checking out is one of the worst parts of shopping — online or in-store. In recent years, we’ve seen the industry make strides in-store with self-service checkouts and even Amazon paving the way for no checkout, just grab and go. In order to make the checkout process faster, retailers are going “cashless” and deploying mobile checkout stands throughout stores. During the busy holiday shopping season when in-store real estate is particularly precious, it’s likely to become an even more important strategy. 

Yes, it’s only summer but it’s always a good time to think about the shopper experience. As we gear up for holiday shopping, what are your predictions for this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Plus, enjoy a few pictures from our trip to the Hudson Yards mall — it’s quite the place!

What All High-Growth Companies Have in Common

A question we often get  is, “I saw what you did for [this phenomenal, high-growth, high-profile company], how do we do that for our brand?” 

There are a myriad of factors that contribute to a company’s accelerated growth, including: stellar leadership team, superb hires, slam dunk timing, and of course, a little bit of luck. 

While a few of these items may be out of your control, below are the foundational communications elements these powerhouse brands have in common: 

A clear why  

Why does your company exist? What is the fundamental problem your product is solving? How has market and customer research supported your vision? What is your unfair advantage? High-growth companies not only have these answers, but are also able to demonstrate why their team – and their team alone – is best poised to win the market. 

Conviction 

The advice “fake it till you make it” is the worst possible advice for high-growth companies. There is no faking it if you want to convince the market of your awesome potential. Our partners within this space share a deep drive and conviction that their leadership, team, product, *and* vision can change – or even create – a category. Tapping into and understanding what makes your company unique is the core of your external and internal communications and sets high-growth companies apart from the pack.  

Locked-in messaging 

A solid messaging framework is how you communicate your why and conviction to the world. A strong messaging framework clearly outlines the company’s descriptor, verbalizes the mission, identifies target audiences, and is specific about the brand’s value propositions. This framework is your business’ communications blueprint – it sets the tone and positioning for all external and internal communications and ensures every touch point with your internal and external audiences is consistent, concise, and powerful. 

Commitment to marketing and communications 

Our high-growth partners share the belief that marketing and communications are business critical. They understand these roles need to be a part of the company in its early stages and are instrumental to the direction and success of the brand. Every once in awhile we hear companies “took a break from PR” or “stopped PR entirely.” We understand there are a variety of business and resource factors at play, but if being a high-growth company is in your vision, fully “turning off” or “pausing” marketing or communications will hobble your chances. These are important business functions that deserve dedicated and consistent commitment. 

Surround sound 

You have a marketing and comms team – yay! What sets high-growth teams apart from the rest is a commitment to reaching their key audiences in a variety of ways. From earned and social media, content marketing, influencer relations, and interactive experiences, high-growth companies are fearless and willing to engage their audiences in new ways.  

Defined success 

Clearly communicated KPIs are the cornerstone of a high-growth company’s success and enable them to tackle new challenges. These KPIs are not kept in silos, but shared across functions, so everyone understands what success is and their role in helping the business achieve these goals. 

The Declassified Intern Survival Guide

Highwire PR’s summer internship program has officially kicked off and the sea of new faces, virtually or otherwise, has led me to reflect on my time with the agency. On my first day, I was focused on making a good impression with my co-workers, taking feverous notes and eager to learn more about agency PR. With the next class of interns finishing up their first few weeks, I want to share the knowledge I’ve gained over the last six months. So, here’s my declassified Highwire PR survival guide.

Communication Happens in Various Formats 

Highwire has put in place open channels of communication, like Slack and Bluejeans, to keep teams engaged and connected no matter where they’re located. This helps to foster a great culture as it encourages teams to collaborate in a more meaningful way. However, when I first got started I found myself struggling to manage the stream of Slack “pings,” email chains and Bluejeans calls. I found myself asking the questions, what do I respond to? Is sending three slack messages too much? It’s easy to get overwhelmed. A good tip to overcome this challenge is to reach out to your direct managers and ask them how to best stay organized. Once you have that down, use these modes of communication to your advantage as it will drive your work forward and keep your team apprised on the tasks you’re moving on throughout the day. Transparency and communication are key to your success so it’s important you master this. 

Not All News is News

As PR professionals we serve as the gatekeepers for any and all news. And tech news cycles move quickly so it’s important to identify any and all opportunities before the next story hits. With that said, not everything is notable news. After you filter out market updates, there can be sponsored posts disguised as articles, bylines from competitors, or misleading publications that turn out to be international. Besides that, something that is interesting to you, or even interesting to your team, may not be interesting for the client. 

Below are the key questions you need to ask yourself to understand whether an article is relevant and worth sharing.  

  1.  Is this a reputable news source (as opposed to a blog)?
  2.  Is this a press release pick-up or organic coverage? 
  3.  Is this simply a trend piece or did something new happen? 
  4.  What event took place, and who were the actors involved?
  5.  Is the event timely?
  6.  Does this directly relate to services my client provides?
  7. What can my client gain from knowing this news?

These questions will help you to better identify opportunities for both your team and client and get you closer to that quality piece of coverage. 

Re-Think Your To-Do List 

When you’re just warming up to the internship, your client load is minimal and you’ll spend most of your time wrapping your head on what your clients do. Once you get into the groove of things, there will be days where you have a full list of tasks and others where you have little to do. That’s the moments where your to-do lists moves beyond tactical and towards proactive. A day where you have “nothing” to do is actually the perfect opportunity for you to shine. Clients love fresh ideas, so start scanning around for resources that will help muster them. It can be a proactive pitch piggy-backing off of a news piece you saw earlier that week, or a new take on something that’s already in the works.This won’t come easy at first but will gradually become second nature. Lastly, use that available time to connect with your fellow colleagues and offer assistance for any lingering tasks/projects. Raising your hand will strengthen connections and build relationships with your team. 

As my time with Highwire comes to a close, I’m proud of all the accomplishments and connections I’ve made. For fellow interns, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stuck but once more time passes it’ll feel more comfortable. And hopefully this survival guide will set interns’ up for success at the agency. Looking for an opportunity to work here? Check out our job openings here. 

#HWCyberSquad is ready for Black Hat 2019… Are You?

As Black Hat USA 2019 draws ever closer, so does the anticipation and excitement for over 19,000 security professionals who call one of the nation’s largest cybersecurity summits a second home.

Always promising and delivering the latest and greatest on threat research, malware and all things cybersecurity, Black Hat has grown significantly over the years, becoming a venue for some of the greatest minds from the world’s foremost cybersecurity organizations to convene and discuss the state of global security, technology and research. 

What We’re Looking Forward To

Def Con, a hacker conversation, featuring former L0pht members, including Veracode’s CTO Chris Wysopal

This year’s event, focusing on DevSecOps, nation-state attacks, vulnerabilities, open-source and more, promises to be bigger and better than ever. 

“Black Hat received an incredibly large number of submissions for this year’s event,” said Heather Donner, Black Hat PR Manager. “This year we will see themes covering the full security spectrum, spanning voting technology, auto vulnerabilities, research on WhatsApp, and major mobile talks. We’re also expecting to see a focus on privacy and consumer risks emerge as a key trend this year.”

A few of our clients weighed in on what they’re expecting to see more of as well:

“The security industry has seen many significant shifts this year – most notably through accelerating industry consolidation which has come to reshape the SOC as we know it. For us, this started with Splunk’s acquisition of Phantom last year, and has continued with a number of acquisitions affecting the SIEM and SOAR market across the landscape,” said Haiyan Song, SVP and GM of Security Markets at Splunk. “I’m always fascinated to hear more from customers and partners on how recent market acquisitions are affecting the rate of product innovation, how analytics-driven security is enabling a new kind of data management, how automation is making people more effective and productive, and how unknown data – or as we call it at Splunk, ‘dark data’ – is impacting privacy, legislation, and in the end how organizations grapple with security.”

“The professions of software development and information security are overlapping more than they ever have before and the trend is accelerating,” explained Chris Wysopal, Veracode CTO and co-founder. “There have always been software companies that have built security products, but this isn’t about that. This is about software developers performing traditional security practices and security professionals building software to secure their organizations.”

“The way businesses use technology has changed dramatically in the last 15 years,” Wysopal continued. “Enterprises are not simply deploying, configuring, and securing vendor produced software. Enterprises are building their own solutions using software assembled from open source, code from their own massive development teams, and run on the APIs and services of cloud providers. Security has to be integrated into every step of the building process and not just assessed at the end. After all, development is continuous now so there is no end!”

What’s New This Year

Always new and always evolving, we asked our Black Hat expert, Heather Donner, what new offerings and programs this year’s Black Hat has in store.

“We’ve added exciting new features and programs to this year’s event to give attendees the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with new tools and practicing new techniques,” Donner noted. “Attendees can check out the all-new Arsenal Lab, which provides a unique opportunity to play with hardware, ICS gear, and IoT devices in a controlled environment, as well as the first-ever Micro Summits, which are designed to foster education and collaboration on focused topics in the information security industry.”

With the added emphasis on interaction and education at this year’s event, we’re more excited than ever to see what talks from Akamai (here and here), BitSight, Endgame, Forcepoint, Intel, Qualys, Splunk (here and here), and more will bring, and what thought-provoking insights we take away. 

We’re ready for Black Hat 2019… are you?

Let us know if you’d like to connect with Highwire PR at the show! Contact secleads@highwirepr.com for more details.

Less is More: Working with Microinfluencers

In recent years, influencer campaigns have become an extremely important component of integrated marketing plans, especially for consumer-facing products or services. While earned media is a great way to get your company’s message in front of a key audiences, influencer marketing has risen as a critical channel for most communications programs, as it helps get brand stories in front of new, targeted audiences that match key demographics. 

 

However, you need to be thoughtful about how you engage influencers for communications objectives. It’s not enough to pick a handful of influencers with six-figure follower counts and call it a day. When identifying the right influencers to engage with, it turns out that bigger is not always better – Brands have increasingly made the shift to working with microinfluencers, as opposed to traditional influencer channels with massive follower counts. 

 

So what is a microinfluencer? 

While there’s no exact definition for what constitutes a microinfluencer, they’re colloquially known in the industry as an online personality or influencer with a follower count roughly between ten thousand and a hundred thousand followers

 

For a long time, the common approach to working with influencers was simple: the more followers, the better. But engagement and impact figures actually show the opposite. Typically, posts see the highest engagement (likes and comments on posts) when an influencer has around ten thousand followers. Engagement rates typically drop off just after that

 

While there are a few reasons why this might be the case, the primary theory is that an audience typically feels more like a tight-knit community when influencers have smaller follower counts, so individuals are more likely to engage in comments. 

 

The trend towards micro influence is incredibly valuable for marketers and PR professionals. The average cost to be featured in a microinfluencer’s post is 180 dollars, compared to the average 250 thousand dollars it costs for a feature on a macroinfluencer’s social media. Not only is the cost lower, microinfluencers typically have hyper-specific audiences, ones who belong to specific demographics, or who are passionate about specific industries, which make them effective partners for the right campaign.

 

When determining which influencers to work with for a specific campaign, narrow in on which audience you’d like to connect with, who will be particularly receptive to the brand story you’re telling. Who is the best influencer to engage with this audience and tell this story?

 

What tools can help? 

There are a number of tools out there to help PR and marketing folks find the right influencer to tell their stories. Whether you’re looking to reach an enterprise audience, consumers, or a specific professional demographic, there’s a platform out there that can help track down and engage with the key influencers in a given space. 

 

However, as helpful as influencer trackers and tools like Traackr and Insight Pool can be, tools are just the first step in the engagement process. Just as PR teams develop relationships with reporters, communications professionals should be sure to maintain strong relationships with social media influencers so the partnership feels less transactional, and more genuine. 

 

Interested in learning more?

Just like earned and owned channels, influencer campaigns can have a massive impact on sales and revenue when executed thoughtfully and strategically. If you’re interested in up-leveling your brand message with the help of influencers, and need help getting started, reach out. We’d love to learn more about how we can help tell your story.