Articles written for various professional publications.
VIRTUOUS CUSTOMER SERVICE
The transition to a new year is an appropriate time to refocus, reevaluate, and redirect attention to the value-centers of your business. In a chaotic year such as 2020, it becomes easy to lose sight of value, both from a personal narrative and from a client perspective.
An industry should be valued based on its ability to adhere to the challenges of the market, regardless of what those challenges might be. But to create the reality in our ability to overcome, we must first believe that we can.
2021 PRODUCT TRENDS AND INSIGHTS
Product trend analysis is something that continues to challenge our industry mostly because it is so varied and, typically, overthought. Mapping trends not only allows for industry distributors to better advance their knowledge of trend impressions, but it gives them a chance to be subject matter experts for their clients.
THE RISE OF BOXED SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES
There remains relative unease with the retail process amid the necessity to physically distance and remain personally safe. At the same time, retail is gaining traction but is still having to get creative in their sales strategies. For several years now, the U.S. consumer market has been familiar with boxed subscription services with offerings from clothes to dog toys, and fitness equipment to food. These curated selections of products are highly sought after. This market has grown by more than 100 percent per year since 2016. This year, that trend continues, and more companies are beginning to enter this space.
EMERGING MARKET TRENDS
To best understand how our market is shifting, who is buying, who is not buying, and why all these things are happening, we must first look at a very broad or macro view to comprehend our volatility. Our industry’s future is becoming more predictable, though the world around us remains somewhat confusing. If we can begin to appreciate the shift in marketplace perspective and allow for our own status quo to be tested, we begin to see the opportunities for success.
BACK TO BUSINESS
You may find yourself quite confused by the business updates of the day. One moment we acknowledge our new reality under a market exhausted with news of recession, but then we see the uptick in retail spending and market stabilization. We work in one of the most volatile and confusing times and can quickly become overwhelmed by our inability to make sense of what challenges to focus on.
Disruptions to our global economy and even individual societies are an inevitability. Throughout history we see this pattern repeated where a dramatic cause equates to an economic effect that interrupts human life, supply chains, and international markets. Over the past fifty years, economic patterns of growth and market downturn have perpetuated at a consistent rate, but the ability to respond to these situations in their aftermath continues to improve.
PSYCHOLOGY OF PANIC BUYING
During the month of March, toilet paper was the most valuable consumer item in our country. Many of us probably experienced an in-store shortage of this product. At one point, a package of toilet paper was even worth more than a barrel of crude oil, the number one commodity in our world for decades. Similar situations occurred for items like hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and disposable gloves.
But why did this happen – and was there even an actual shortage?
IMPACTS ON THE SUPPLY CHAIN
The supply chain in the promotional industry is a delicate ballet of efficiency that helps create seemingly effortless delivery of millions of products every day. Market disruptions challenge the entire process and can be frustrating to understand. Economic impacts that lead to furloughs or layoffs, adjustments to state mandates, cargo restrictions, and import disruptions can each individually derail a supply chain. COVID-19 has presented each of these significant factors all at once to many of our industry suppliers. Though we have continually observed supplier transparency, willingness to innovate, and process improvement throughout this situation, it is important to understand how and why the impacts are so widely felt.
SCARCITY & VOLATILITY WITH COVID-19
Volatility is also behavioral. Our consumer market is experiencing the most volatility many of us have ever seen. Again, this is based on an assumption of scarcity. So how do we combat this and get a positive outcome for our business? The answer is not too easy. First, we have to understand the true scarcity in the market and then find ways to redirect attention. Promotional products are not scarce, nor are they expensive, for example. We have to take this time to remind our clients and our prospects of those facts.
NEW YEAR, NEW BUSINESS
All signs point to an economic slowdown in the year or years ahead. Looking at the alignment of specific catalysts such as Britain’s departure from the European Union to the trade tariffs that are beginning to be widely felt, the economy will react naturally, and with some unfortunate consequences. Economic slowdowns and even recessions are something that no one and no industry can avoid. These happen as part of the bigger economics machine.
One of the most significant challenges facing the global business community is the slow adoption rate of technology as a business tool. In fact, it can be argued that those who do not embrace digital as a means of business operation will fall significantly behind competition. Tech integration has slowed in recent years though the speed, efficiency and access to technology continues to progress. This means that not only are businesses not adopting, they are in fact falling behind. In the past, slow improvements within a business’s technology infrastructure was typically reserved for small companies who lacked the resources or the time to properly update. Today, we are seeing businesses large and small become more resistant to tapping into these ever-expanding resources.
FOLLOWING TRENDS ONLINE
Trends are typically driven from the designer and high-end retail spaces, and then they find their way down to the general consumer market and even to us in promotional merchandising. The ability to monitor these trends and better predict what is headed our way makes us more effective in our approach to customers. The connection between markets makes the online space the best place to follow and predict trends. But, doing so can become confusing and often very convoluted.
ADAPTING IN CHANGING MARKETS
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THE NEWEST TRADE WAR
In March of 2018, the White House announced the largest tax of foreign imports the nation has seen since 2016. On March 8, President Trump signed an executive order enacting broad tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, some of the largest in history. The administration’s next move was to direct their attention to more common imported products that often carry a bigger price tag. The decision to seek out nearly $60 billion of goods coming exclusively from China was the first major single-country tariff decision made by the Trump administration. The overall import value was originally determined to be $30 billion, but after review the administration decided that double that number would be necessary.
Generational selling is the ability to see to any generation without unfairly alienating another. This is understanding the nuances that make each group unique and being able to tap into that through communication and connection. Each generation has attributes that are necessary to highlight when doing business with them. This does not mean that the sales person has to change who they are, but they need to be aware that what makes each generation characteristically different is import to understand as part of the process.
PROVIDING PEACE OF MIND (UK)
As we progress into a more globalised world that continues to demand more of products in the marketplace, the promotional products industry is not free of the scrutiny of regulation, product responsibility and social compliance.