Sparkling Water Market Demonstrates the Importance of Trend Watching

This summer, the cold beverage of choice may not be soda or iced tea like it has been in the past. Instead, more and more consumers are reaching for sparkling water.

In fact, the Beverage Marketing Corporation has projected sparkling water sales to increase by more than 20 percent in 2017, according to a report from Yahoo Finance.

Led by popular brands like LaCroix, sparkling water has even become somewhat of a trendy accessories, showing up in Instagrams and other social media posts, thus fueling the popularity of these beverages even more.

#lacroixsoverboys but i wish this was a photo of the tangerine flavor because it is ?

A post shared by e l y s e (@elyseboland) on

more la croix please ???

A post shared by la croix (@joyfrom_lacroix) on

If you run a restaurant, convenience store or other small beverage distributor, this trend is something you should definitely monitor. Sparkling water has already become a popular choice. And it doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon. So if you don’t already, it could be time to look into stocking these sparkling water brands.

Sparkling Water Market Demonstrates the Importance of Trend Watching

And no matter what type of business you run, it’s important to pay attention to trends like this one. You need to know the products and brands that are trending upward with your customers, and stock your shelves or fill your menu accordingly.

Sparkling Water Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Sparkling Water Expected to Get Even More Popular This Year" was first published on Small Business Trends

McDonald's UberEATS Partnership Shows Power of Customer Convenience

Want a Big Mac delivered to your front door? Now you can, thanks to McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) recent partnership with UberEATS.

For a fee of $4.99, customers can order McDonald’s menu items for delivery, which should normally take between five and 15 minutes. This is a convenient new option for fast food buyers, who are already apt to value convenience. In fact, the fast food giant is focusing its marketing efforts on the convenience factor. There’s a new line of “lazy wear,” including Big Mac onesies and similar items — because now you don’t even have to leave the house to get your Big Mac!

It Pays to Focus on Customer Convenience

Independent restaurants and other small businesses can take a page from McDonald’s book as well. When you have the opportunity to offer convenient new options to consumers, especially if your customers tend to value convenience, it can be a positive step for your business.

And you don’t have to dedicate all of your own resources to offering delivery and other convenient options either. As McDonald’s and UberEATS have demonstrated, you can find other companies with which to partner. These businesses may already provide those services your customers are interested in. It can be a great option for small businesses that don’t have the resources to hire new staff or invest in new equipment to offer those new options in house.

McDonald’s Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "McDonald’s UberEATS Partnership Shows Power of Convenience" was first published on Small Business Trends

Generational Marketing Tips and Examples

Retail is undergoing major transformations as the habits of millennials, Generation X and baby boomers change with age. (And don’t forget about Generation Z, the group right behind the millennials). What retail tactics work with each of these demographics? Yes Lifecycle Marketing studied shopper behavior in-depth to find out. Here’s your ultimate guide to retail marketing for each age group.

Generational Marketing Tips and Examples

Generation Z (aged 21 and under)

Keywords associated with this generation might include “authentic,” “quality” and “personalization.” Dubbed Centennials by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, this generation cares more about quality than any other. Quality is the most important factor in brand loyalty; brand prestige is important, too. Centennials don’t hunt for bargains, but will hunt to find the perfect, customized product. They also expect your store to understand their needs and personalize communications

Reach this group with social media, which you can use to promote events and experiences in your store. Email matters much less to this generation than others, but triggered emails that are personalized are more likely to get results.

Millennials (aged 22 to 37)

The keywords associated with this generation include “loyalty” and “personalization.” This generation is the most brand-loyal of the four. Loyalty rewards programs, company reputations and company philosophies drive their loyalty. Price and quality carry equal weight with millennial shoppers; 34 percent say quality matters most, while the same percentage say price matters most.

Reach this group with personalized marketing messages and communications. Be sure to stay true to your brand and keep your promises. Instituting a loyalty rewards program is also a good ides. Fifty percent of millennials say loyalty points influenced their most recent purchasing decision.

Generation X (aged 38 to 52)

Keywords for this demographic might include “deals,” “quality,” “convenience.” Price is the biggest motivating factor for Generation X shoppers: Some 85 percent say discounts influenced their most recent purchase. They also care about quality and convenience. What don’t they care about? Brand loyalty. If you can offer deals, quality and convenience, they’ll switch to your store in a snap.

Reach this group with email — the method 59 percent of them prefer for marketing and communication — and send it at the times they are likely to be checking email (morning, mid-afternoon, lunch hour). Social media marketing and online display advertising matter less to them.

Baby Boomers (aged 53+)

Keywords for this group include “price,” “convenience,” “variety.” Selection and price, not loyalty rewards or “brand experiences,” influence the boomers’ shopping decisions. They care more than any other generation about getting discounts, and their recent purchases were most influenced by convenience. Half of boomers described themselves as “price savvy.” However, your store also needs a wide variety of products in order to appeal to this generation.

Reach this group with email and direct mail. Fifty-nine percent of boomers value both means of marketing communications, while just 19 percent care about social media marketing.

No one store will appeal to all four generations, of course, but by understanding the generations you hope to attract, you can boost your chances of getting them in the door.

Demographics Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Demographics Secrets Revealed: The Ultimate Guide for Retail Marketing to 4 Generations of Shoppers" was first published on Small Business Trends

Mice at Chipotle Highlight Ongoing Health Issues that Could Drag the Brand Down

Chipotle’s PR nightmare is far from over. The company has seemingly had to deal with crisis after crisis over the last couple of years due mainly to food safety issues at its restaurants. And a couple of recent incidents have reignited customer worries.

Mice at Chipotle

First, customers at a Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) restaurant in Dallas complained about seeing mice running through the restaurant. They even caught the mice on video and shared it online.

Additionally, Chipotle temporarily shut down a restaurant in Virginia after reports that some of its customers were experiencing symptoms of Norovirus, one of the issues that has plagued the restaurant chain over the past couple of years.

When you run a business, there are bound to be mistakes and issues that are beyond your control. You might even have to deal with a PR crisis or two over the years. But repeated occurrences of  the same or similar issues again and again — as in case with health and food safety — are going to be hard for customers to overlook. When you’ve already had a major issue with food safety, having additional issues with food born illness and mice running through your restaurant can’t help.

So while it’s great to try and avoid any major issues in the first place, it’s even more important to be extra careful when you’ve made similar mistakes in the past. Even if mice had nothing to do with the original issues at Chipotle restaurants, customers are going to link those things in their mind and see a recurring problem, rather than a couple of isolated incidents.

Chipotle Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Chipotle’s Ongoing Health Issues Could Drag the Brand Down" was first published on Small Business Trends

FTC Crackdown on Fake Reviews in Response to Online Trampoline Sellers

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is sending out another warning to unscrupulous marketers who try to manipulate consumers with fake reviews.

FTC Crackdown on Fake Reviews

The warning accompanies the charging two brothers the FTC says posted deceptive ads and endorsements of trampolines they were selling online. The brothers have been ordered by the federal agency to stop their activities immediately.

The feds say the two trampoline sellers deceived consumers by directing them to review websites that claimed to be independent but were not, and failing to disclose that one of the brothers posted online product endorsements without disclosing his financial interest in the sale of the products.

FTC Charges Brothers Posting Fake Trampoline Endorsements

According to the FTC, the two brothers Son “Sonny” Le and Bao “Bobby” Le working together used several fictitious business names and sold Infinity and Olympus Pro brand trampolines on several websites. These sales websites prominently featured logos from supposedly independent review organizations, including “Trampoline Safety of America,” the “Bureau of Trampoline Review” and “Top Trampoline Review.” The review organizations’ websites were in reality owned and run by the Le brothers.

Consumers who clicked on the logos placed on the sales websites were redirected to the websites of those fake review organizations. The fake sites claimed to provide objective information, including unbiased “expert reviews” of specific brands and models, as well as ratings based on performance, safety and other qualities. Each review site recommended the Le brothers’ Infinity and Olympus Pro trampolines.

In addition, FTC charged Bobby Le had posted online reviews appearing to be from ordinary trampoline owners without disclosing his connection to the products he was promoting. In the reviews, he praised the “strong frames” and other attributes of the products he and his brother were selling, while disparaging other brands.

Brothers Settle FTC Charges of Manipulating Online Reviews

The two brothers agreed in late May this year to settle with the FTC agreeing while marketing and selling their trampolines they had engaged in the deceptive practices. Sadly, this isn’t the first example of businesses deceiving consumers with fake reviews.

The Commission issued a final order settling charges against the two brothers July 18. The final order bars the brothers from engaging in such deceptive behavior in the future and requires them to clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connections between a reviewer and the product being reviewed.

FTC usually levies stiff penalties and fines against those found guilty of using deceptive practices in marketing and selling their products. The brothers seem to have avoided this. There is no mention of any fines levied in the FTC announcements or supporting documents on the case. But, considering 84 percent of customers trust online reviews as a personal recommendation, the temptation for a small group of unscrupulous marketers to act dishonestly remains.

Trampoline Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "FTC Charges Online Trampoline Sellers for Phony Reviews – But Avoid Stiffer Penalties" was first published on Small Business Trends