Book Buying and Beyond

One of the great traditions of elementary school in the US is Scholastic books.  I remember bringing home the paper catalog, choosing a book, placing my order through my teacher, and a few weeks later getting my book at school to bring home to read.  It was a real treat.  Of course, these days, Scholastic books are a huge online extravaganza.  Although my child still brings home paper catalogs, the ordering can happen online.  The order goes to the teacher, I pay with my credit card, and the book comes home same as always.

The website has some tremendously valuable attributes.  First, it can be searched via a number of methods, including by the paper catalog issue/page, by author or main character and by age/school level.  Second, the site includes educational and instructional materials for parents, as well as expanded merchandise selections.  Third, the site allows teachers to interact with parents.  The teacher can suggest books that the students in the class might use, and teachers receive points that they can use to purchase instructional items for the classroom based on the amount of money that parents spend that year.

Scholastic has moved beyond books and into learning with a capital L.  Recommended reading lists that blend marketing with information are posted, but they are enlivened by commentary from actual parents.  See the comments on the Top 100 Books listing, including suggestions of books that are missing (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Roald Dahl titles, and no Laura Ingalls Wilder).  Blogs include advice on how to help children attain reading and writing literacy.  For example a recent article found via the parents Scholastic Facebook page (but hosted on Scholastics’ website) shows how to set up a writing center for children 5-7.  Beyond that, however, photos make the Scholastic Facebook timeline bright and helpful.  Children’s cardboard box structures, dog photos, and book covers illustrate the creativity that accompanies child critical thinking and literacy skills.  Click here for a great example of what kids can do with boxes!

In fact Scholastic is moving to compete with Kindle and the Nook.  Their website includes links to different apps that allows me to use the Scholastic books with my child in a few formats (including a mobile app that records the amount  of time the child reads as part of a summer challenge to motivate reading, and an e-book app).  The e-book app just won the “2012 Editor’s Choice Award” from The Children’s Technology Review (PR Newswire).  According to the company’s summary of the first quarter of 2012, e-Book sales were a large part of its 10% growth (Scholastic reports).

A 2010 Harvard Business Review story overviewed a new model of consumer behavior called the “consumer decision journey” (CDJ) which was originally introduced in a June 2009 issue of McKinsey Quarterly (Edelman, p. 1).  The CDJ model replaces the sales funnel model, showing that consumers spend more time in the evaluate, enjoy-advocate-bond parts of the purchase process than in the traditional winnowing process the funnel model emphasizes (Edelman, p.8).

CDJ ModelFigure A (Edelman, p. 8):  CDJ model – the post-purchase phase is extended and retains a relationship with the product.  Consumption is not limited to the immediate purchase, but includes more emphasis on the emotional connection the consumer feels to the brand through the social process of sharing the experience with others.

 

 

 

Figure B (Edelman, p. 8):  Traditional sales funnel – all of the emphasis is placed on the movement from awareness to decision in the pre-purchase phase.Funnel Model

The new open-ended relationships that consumers have with products, created by easy access to information sharing, means that retailers need to renew focus on creating a reliable, coherent message that aligns in reality with their product.  Scholastic’s entry into the book app market, with its track-record of helping parents help their children, is another win for parents who want to foster literacy and creativity within our upcoming generation.

Sources:

Edelman, D. (2010).  Branding in the Digital Age:  You’re Spending Your Money in All the Wrong Places.  Harvard Business Reviewhttp://hbr.org/2010/12/branding-in-the-digital-age-youre-spending-your-money-in-all-the-wrong-places/ar/1

Scholastic, Inc. (2011, September 22).  Scholastic Reports Strong Fiscal 2012 First Quarter Results.  Scholastic Media Room, Retrieved from http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/node/498

Scholastic, Inc. (2012, May 24).  Scholastic Storia Awarded The “Editor’s Choice Award” by Children’s Technology Review.  PR Newswire, Retrieved from http://finance.yahoo.com/news/scholastic-storia-awarded-editors-choice-170600046.html

Mobile Apps Reforming Society

“All kitchens are filthy, Mr. Fawlty, in fact the better the kitchen, the filthier it is. . .” Basil the Rat, Fawlty Towers

Mobile applications have changed the face of social media in a few short years.  According to a recent study, 87 percent of the world’s population (5.9 million subscribers) has a mobile device, and 20% of those users have 3G coverage (mobiThinking). The study also shows that in the U.S., 25 percent of mobile users only access the web through their mobile device.  All of this goes to show that mobile apps are having an effect on how social media spreads, and are poised to continue to have a significant effect on the future of social media.

Mobile apps carry the social media revolution into the ‘real’ world.  For example, consumers engage in new forms of immediate market research thanks to apps such as the Amazon app and Amazon price check app.  In April 2012, Best Buy’s CEO Brian Dunn left the corporation after a career with the company beginning as a “blue shirt” thanks to criticism that he was ineffective in meeting the challenges posed by online retailers such as Amazon.  In particular, the criticism leveraged by the industry and aired by a Dateline NBC segment, was that Best Buy had become Amazon’s showroom (Skariachan).  However, the challenge posed by Amazon is not limited to high end electronics.  Amazon offers everything from Kleenex to diamond rings, all of which can be price checked in a moment using the Amazon price check app.  Simply scan the bar code and find the best price for the item.  Shoppers have been empowered by mobile apps to think beyond getting an item to finding it for the best price.  As brand loyalty takes a second seat to personal benefit, the market economy shifts to favor the buyer not the seller.

The potential for shifting power relationships through social media has not go unnoticed by the United States Department of Labor.  Mobile apps and instant comparison information offered the perfect forum for social activism.  In 2011, the DOL announced a mobile app contest called the DOL Occupational Employment Statistics App Challenge.  Prizes were to go to application designers who could use DOL data sources (or other online data sources) to make users more aware of the information collected by the DOL and could use that information to make long-term decisions related to education, career, or more immediate decisions, such as where to spend money.

The winners were announced in October 2011.  First and second place went to mobile apps that provide essentially the same information.  They use geocoding to identify the restaurants, stores and hotels that have health, OSHA or Department of Labor code violations, allowing consumers to choose establishments that have chosen to operate safely and fairly.  Eat Shop Sleep is available to both iPad and Android platforms, while  iCitizen Labor Report is available only from the iPod App store.  Consumers can let companies know that they feel committed to fair labor practices, safe working environments, and compliance with food safety laws by looking up a local business and instantly retrieving an easy to use rating that lets the consumer know how compliant that business establishment is.  Being socially conscious and active has never been so easy.

These apps hint at the future value of the merging of information and portable technology to all of us. Economic awareness is part and parcel of the social media world.  As Clay Shirky points out, this is truly a revolutionary moment.  For the first time in history, people have both the technological and social mandate to control what is said in a public forum (Shirky).  They are allowing information that is relevant to be accessed easily and immediately to allow for decision-making that benefits the user.  Mobile apps do more than make old information relevant, they have the power to reshape habits and democratize the ‘real’ social marketplace just as the virtual marketplace has already started changing.

Sources:

Amazon price check app.  Application for Android, available at http://www.amazon.com/Amazon-com-Price-Check/dp/B005QTZSRA/ref=sr_1_4?s=mobile-apps&ie=UTF8&qid=1336843804&sr=1-4

Eat Shop Sleep.  Application for Android, available at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rgm.eatshopsleep

iCITIZEN LABOR REPORT.  Application for Apple iPod, available at http://mobilepublic.org/MobilePublic/iCitizen.html

Occupational Employment Statistics Challenge.  Retrieved May 9, 2012 from http://employment.challenge.gov/

OPA News Release.  (2011, October 27).  US Department of Labor Announces Winners of Online and Mobile Development Contests.  United States Department of Labor.  Retrieved May 10, 2012 from http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/opa/OPA20111568.htm

mobiThinking. (2012, February).  Global mobile statistics 2012.  Retrieved April 24, 2012 from http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats

Shirky, C.  (2009, June).  How Social Media Can Make History.  TED, Retrieved April 2, 2012, from http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_ make_history.html

Skariachan, D.  (2012, April 10).  Best Buy CEO out as more shoppers move online.  Reuters, Retrieved May 9, 2012 from http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120410/FINANCE01/120419953/1004/best-buy-ceo-out-as-more-shoppers-move-online