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Card Industry News

  • Eight Changes in Retail Technology

    8 Changes Retail Technology

    There are some remarkable changes happening in retail technology at the moment - some of which have already made it into our everyday lives and some which might be on their way to mass adoption in the coming years.

    Here are eight interesting examples of changes in retail technology:

    Pepper Robot Retail Technology

    Robots and AI

    Softbank have been testing a humanoid robot called Pepper in thousands of retail sites. Pepper is fun, speaks 19 languages and is designed to recognise principle human emotions (by analysing facial expressions) and respond accordingly.

    Virtual Shopping Retail Technology

    Virtual Shopping

    Customers can scan a variety of products on a display wall at trains stations and airports and their order will be waiting for them when they return home. Early adopters include Home Plus in South Korea and Tesco, Ocado and John Lewis in the UK.

    Amazon Echo Retail Technology

    Voice

    Voice recognition software has been getting more and more powerful. Amazon Echo and its virtual assistant, Alexa, make it remarkably easy to order almost anything by voice from the comfort of your home.

    Self Service Checkout Retail Technology

    Self-Service Checkout

    Mostly used by Supermarket chains, we’ve all adapted to scanning and paying by ourselves at self service checkout tills. Customers are able to move at their own speed and retailers are able to reduce staff overhead.

    Amazon Go Retail Technology

    Amazon Go

    Amazon have been testing a bricks and mortar grocery store concept in the US. Using their app, you simply walk into the store, grab the items you need and just walk out. There are no tills and payment is taken from your account on exiting the store.

    Payment Tools Retail Technology

    Payment Devices

    Companies like Square, Paypal and iZettle now offer solutions for anyone to be able to retail from anywhere. You can attach a variety of devices to your mobile device and take credit card payments.

    Contactless Retail Technology

    Contactless

    There are now over 100 million contactless bank cards in the UK. We are using them, our watches and our phones to make faster payments for small purchases. Alibaba have recently started debuting payments by facial recognition with 'smile to pay' tech at KFC in China.

    Amazon Drone Retail Technology

    Drones

    Amazon have started making small deliveries by drone with their Prime Air service. Waiting times for certain products are reduced to as little as fifteen minutes from the time of ordering online in the comfort of your home.

    These changes in retail technology can seem daunting for small independent businesses and whilst we won't necessarily want robots manning all our stores in the future it is interesting to see which changes will be widely adopted and which won't. This is turn will give us insights into how consumers like to shop and how we independent retailers can adapt to meet key customer needs.

    Read more on the opportunities and obstacles on The Digital High Street

    How to get more customers to your retail business

    What do consumers want from retailers?

  • The Digital High Street: Opportunities and Obstacles

    The Digital High Street

    There’s no escaping it, we are living in an age of rapid technological growth and it’s having a dramatic effect on our high streets and retail businesses.

    The internet and online shopping are obvious examples. Payment technology like direct debits, standing orders and online banking have also reduced footfall to high street banks and post offices, which in turn has made it tougher for other retailers at these locations.

    Consumers are Changing

    Most of us are using our phones and mobile devices daily. We are sharing our experiences and thoughts and feelings about the world on a regular basis online. The way we consume products is also changing.

    Anything that can be commoditised is and the lowest price has become the dominant choice factor for these items. Only strong brand stories are able to survive the squeeze on pricing that the internet has brought with it. It’s never been more important to be clear on who you are, who your customers are and how you communicate your story to them.

    Consumers are savvier than ever. They often know exactly what they want when walking into stores after having spent hours online researching. They want authentic brands and experiences that they can share online. They want to buy from companies that share their values.

    This changing retail landscape brings with it a number of opportunities that retailers can take advantage of and obstacles that businesses must overcome.

    Opportunities

    Here are four opportunities that digital technology offers retailers:

    1. Clout

    The internet allows you to punch above your weight. Your retail business is no longer restricted by the physical size of your bricks and mortar store. You can project yourself as much bigger than you really are. The web also gives you reach by allowing your brand story to be shared beyond your physical locality.

    2. Amplification

    Social Media allows you to amplify your message by harnessing the power of your raving fans allowing them to shout about you from the rooftops. You can create reassurance through customer reviews and discover what people love and hate about your business. Using tools like Google my Business it’s a lot easier for people to find and talk about your business. It’s also easier to find journalists and PR opportunities to boost your profile.

    3. Global

    The internet is global, which means that you can now sell worldwide at any time for the day or night. Your story can travel to all four corners of the planet. You also have access to digital marketplaces like Amazon with over 20 million customers a month visiting their website. Never before has it been easier to get started selling online, even without a website.

    4. Fast and Fun

    This technological change has brought with it opportunities for personal growth and development on an unprecedented scale. We can train ourselves in almost any subject online. Social Media is allowing to create powerful networks and discover new friendships that can help us to grow. Social selling has become a thing.

    In some respects, it’s never been easier to retail goods or services. For example, my yoga instructor posts pictures of body butters she manufactures at home. The orders are placed in the comments below her posts on Instagram and Facebook and she collects the cash from them when she hands over the goods. She can also take payments by PayPal, where all her customers need to know is the amount and her email. Despite all this, most retailers often have some hurdles to navigate.

    Obstacles

    Here are four obstacles for retailers to overcome on the digital high street:

    1. Time

    We all know that spending time on our phones and digital devices can sometimes feel wasteful. There’s also so much choice that it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s useful to focus on customer needs to decide on your priorities. Then you can allocate sufficient amounts of time to your digital activities. The trick with all online marketing is to be consistent. If you start a weekly blog, make sure that you can keep it up every week.

    2. Finance

    Building websites and investing in digital marketing can be expensive. I always recommend that people test first. So, try selling on an online marketplace, like Amazon, before spending thousands on a website. Your website will never beat Amazon for SEO, efficiency and technological sophistication so test there first. Sort out your Google listing for free first. Buy your web domain and have a simple web page before spending on an ecommerce website.

    3. You’re Unknown

    Building a website is not like starting a shop on the high street, it’s like starting a shop in the desert with no roads to or from it. You need to be discoverable online, so start with something, even if it’s just a Facebook page or a one page website. Get clear on what your brand story is and what makes you unique, then start consistently sharing it online. Think of yourself as a road builder, building links to your digital presence on a daily basis.

    4. Technology

    Tech is changing all the time at a rapid rate. You are a retailer not a web designer, so outsource to experienced eperts to get the best results. Get training so that you make the most of your SEO, social media or ecommerce online. Finally, make sure you study your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) each week so that you can adjust quickly as you learn what works and doesn’t.

    Have you adopted aspects of the digital high street yet or do you still have your head in the sand? You must act now. You can begin by getting to know your best customers well, understanding your brand story and start connecting with them online. If you only do one thing though, work hard to reduce queues (e.g. with contactless) and improve customer experience in your shop. This is what most of the technological advances shown are focussed on.

    Eight Changes in Retail Technology

    How Retailers can start selling Online

    Nine Tips for Social Selling on Social Media

    See below for the slides from my recent talk on The Digital High Street at Autumn Fair, NEC:

  • 5 Great Card Sending Initiatives Worth Sharing on Social Media

    Greeting Card Sending Initiatives

    The world is changing so fast that it's easy to forget the small pleasures in life, like buying and sending a card to someone. It's such a lovely gift to receive a card too.

    Here are five wonderful card sending initiatives that support more greeting card sending:

    Just A Card Campaign1. Just a Card

    I'm a big fan of the Just a Card campaign to support independent retailers and designer makers. The campaign reminds us all that even small purchases with our independent retailers can make a big difference. As can buying a card by an small publisher. Follow #JustACard on social.

    Thinking Of You Week 2017

    2. Thinking of You Week

    Thinking of You Week inspires people to create a wave of love, caring and happiness by sending greeting cards to different people during the week. Thinking of You Week runs from 25th September - 1st October 2017. I like this reminder to focus on others for a week  by sending more cards. Be sure to involved this September.

    Postmark Feel Good Friday

    3. Feel Good Friday

    Feel Good Friday is a brilliant card sending initiative from London retailer Postmark. To encourage more people send cards, Postmark offer a free card from a special box on certain Fridays, as long as you write it in the store there and then. They’ll even post anywhere in the UK for you for FREE! Visit the stores to find out more.

    The Greeting Card Project Initiative

    4. The Greeting Card Project

    Last year I realised that I don't send that many cards personally. As a New Year's Resolution for 2017 I decided change this. Each week I visit a different shop, buy cards and send them whilst sharing my experiences on YouTube and social media. This card sending initiative aims to inspire others to send more cards too. Follow The Greeting Card Project.

    Festive Friday 2016

    Festive Friday

    Festive Friday is on Friday the 1st December 2017. The aim is encourage card lovers to send their Christmas cards early. The idea is that this wave of sparkly Christmas card sending will get everyone in the Christmas card sending mood. We have a lot of fun with Festive Friday each year in our offices. Why not join in this year?

    If you love cards as much as we do, be sure to spread the word about these great initiatives.

    Sharing is caring so get involved on social media and share your stories about card sending.

    Will the Greeting Card Industry be Vaporised?

    14 Lessons learned making The Greeting Card Project

    Five ways to improve your Retail Business

  • The Marketing Disenchanted Podcast meets Blue Eyed Sun

    Marketing Disenchanted Podcast

    I recently spoke to a group of small business owners at at Sage Summit in Atlanta. In the audience was author and podcaster, Temitayo Osinubi, from The Marketing Disenchanted Podcast. The podcast has featured several marketing greats including Scott Monty, Mark Schaeffer and Brian Fanzo.

    Temi invited me on his show and a few weeks we later I found myself being interviewed on my first ever podcast. We discussed all sorts of things ranging from greeting cards to digital marketing. Temi had some really great questions and I had a fun time answering them.

    We chatted about my Looking Back from Perfect exercise, the relevance of greeting cards today and being more open, random and supportive. We also discussed how this blog transformed Blue Eyed Sun, why I started The Greeting Card Project, my work at The Ladder Club as well as how to compete with larger corporations.

    Our discussion even covers fake news and the controversial ways influencers like PewDiePie, Kendall Jenner, Katie Hopkins and Donald Trump grab our attention. I also reference Louis CK, Justin Packshaw and The Start Up Van.

    You can listen to the hour long podcast now by clicking the triangular play button below:

    Read Marketing: Then vs Now

    How to market you retail business online

    See Jeremy speak about the Digital High Street at Autumn Fair

    Visit the Marketing Disenchanted website

  • Will the greeting card industry be Vaporized?

    Greeting Cards VaporisedI recently attended a masterful talk by Robert Tercek, author of Vaporized, on the subject of disruption in business. It was startling to hear example after example of industries being displaced by a new dematerialised world. Robert believes that every aspect of our economy and society is set to be reconfigured by technological forces that only a small number of companies have yet mastered.

    It often seems obvious in hindsight when companies disrupt markets and yet we seldom see it coming. The most recent examples in the greeting card business have been Card Factory and Moonpig. The former disrupting the wholesale space through a vertically integrated model that offers consumers rock bottom prices in well presented retail environments. The latter disrupting through the digital substitution of bricks and mortar retail space by offering extensive choice and customisation that cannot be matched by traditional retail. Both have been rewarded with incredible growth and financial success by offering value to consumers.

    Yet these companies haven't really revolutionised the greeting card market. They’ve brought business models from other industries into the card business and forever changed aspects of it. They haven't vaporized our industry. In fact, I believe that they’ve kept the wolf from the door. By offering low cost cards, Card Factory has helped people to continue sending cards when they might otherwise have abandoned them in order to save money during the recession. Similarly, Moonpig has allowed men and people who are short on time to use a more efficient process to stay connected with their loved ones through cards. The card industry has yet to be vaporized.

    Or will it?

    In sci-fi movies there are plenty of representations of futures where greeting cards don’t exist. It’s not hard to imagine a future without greeting cards. Having said that, there is one vision of the future that does incorporate the handwritten letter. It’s the delightful movie ‘Her’ by Spike Jonze. In it the protagonist works for a company called BeautifulHandWrittenLetters.com The sentiment is still created by humans and the letters are printed out in fonts that look handwritten.

    ‘Her’ is a clever re-imagining of the future that recognises our innate human need for nostalgia. Nostalgia is an idealised past. It relates to an emotional state that we place into a specific time frame. As long as we keep sending cards there will always be an element of this nostalgic element in our lives.

    That’s what my YouTube channel, The Greeting Card Project, is all about: Acknowledging the special importance of hand writing cards. Remembering to think of others and reminding them that they are in your thoughts. Although, I’m halfway through my project and I can tell you first hand that card sending is incredibly inefficient. As such, it is a target for being vaporized. I know because I’ve sent around 100 different cards to people in the last six months.

    This is because, to send a card...

    You have to remember the birthday or occasion required for card sending. This takes time and organisation. You often need to track down the recipient’s current address, then record it correctly for accurate delivery. You need to have postage stamps or be prepared to weigh and send at the post office, especially if the card is to go abroad. Stamps aren’t cheap either. Even if you are delivering it by hand you need to remember it and deliver on time.

    You then have to choose a card that’s suitable for the recipient. This can take time and you might not always be able to find the right card in the first shop you visit. Recently I went to one store to buy a fiftieth birthday card for a customer of mine. Despite six options, none were suitable. I had to compromise with a decent generic birthday card rather than a poor occasion specific design. Not ideal.

    Once you have the card, you have to think about what to write in it. For some people this can feel like hard work. Given how seldom we need to write these days, you might even have to remember how to write by hand! You need to write the card carefully so as to avoid mistakes. If you mess it up you might have to buy another card and start again in order to avoid looking like a child that can’t spell… or write.

    After this you have to get it to a post box that collects on time. A lot of post boxes are now emptied at 9am, so you can’t leave it too late. Frustratingly, Royal Mail don’t share post box information online so you have to visit the post box for up to date info. Royal Mail also don’t offer many later collections. In Brighton & Hove the whole town has to travel up to 3 miles into the centre to reach the single post box that collects at 7pm!

    Finally, you have to rely on Royal Mail to deliver the card on time. Out of the 100 cards I’ve sent this year so far, there are at least two, that I know of, that never arrived. Admittedly the postal service in the UK is superior to some other countries I’ve visited. Of the three cards I sent from Italy in my Milan episode, the first took a week to arrive within Italy, the next took 3-4 weeks to reach Wales and the last took 6 weeks to reach Los Angeles.

    And yet…

    It is the very inefficiency of the process that makes receiving a card so special. That and the fact that all we tend to receive through the letter box these days is junk mail, bills and bank statements. It is deeply personal receiving a handwritten letter. It’s a wonderful gift from a close friend and a delightful surprise from anyone else. For anyone that recognises the importance and value of close personal relationships for business or pleasure, it is still a powerful tool to send a card a or handwritten note.

    Stephen Kelly, the CEO of software company Sage, agreed with this when explaining to me why he uses Blue Eyed Sun cards to send to friends, family and colleagues:

    “It’s so powerful if one of our colleagues opens a card and I’ve personally written that card. It takes time, it shows love, it shows dedication. We love social media, but sometimes it’s really important to show that touch that is very personal and you can only get through a card.” - Stephen Kelly, CEO Sage

    Whether or not the card industry will be vaporized is still up for question. Time will tell. Let's not wait for it to happen and keep fighting to maintain and support this wonderful tradition that offers such a powerful way of connecting despite of, and perhaps because of, its inefficiency.

    So what can we do? Two things:

    1. Send more cards

    So many of us in our industry don’t do this enough. Send cards every week. Tweet about it, Instagram it. Most of us in the industry have access to excess stock in our warehouses and shops. Make these available to your staff and encourage them to send cards too. Share your card sending stories on social media. Most importantly, send cards to young people and kids. In years to come they will have that wonderful feeling of nostalgia for greeting cards and want to share it.

    2. Support card sending

    A great example of a retailer initiative is Feel Good Friday from the Postmark stores in London. They offer a free card from a special box of clearance stock on special Fridays. As long as you write it in the store there and then, they’ll even post it for you.

    Other great initiatives include:

    #JustACard campaign each week on social media

    #NatStatWeek in April

    #ThinkingOfYouWeek in September

    #FestiveFriday early December each year

    Involve your team by giving them an hour to write as many cards as they like and pay for the postage. Involve your card loving friends by giving them small gift packs of cards to send. Get others sending more cards. We are all helping to spread more love in the world by doing this and supporting our beloved card industry.

    Last, but not least, be sure to watch, like and share The Greeting Card Project videos - www.youtube.com/thegreetingcardproject

    Read more:

    Five ways to improve your retail business

    Ecommerce Tips for Retailers

    Seven habits of highly effective retailers

    Watch Robert's talk below:

    THE RISE OF DIGITAL SERVICES: Robert Tercek's keynote speech at Sage Summit 2017 from Robert Tercek on Vimeo.

  • The Greeting card Project - May Review

    #TGCP - May Review

    The Greeting Card Project is my year of sending more greeting cards and recording a video diary of my experiences, the shops I visit, the cards I send and my own personal journey.

    Hooray! Thanks to everyone's support, this month I finally reached 100 subscribers and claimed my custom URL, find it at https://www.youtube.com/TheGreetingCardProject. I'd love your feedback on the project so far. Please tell me what else you'd like to see in the comments beneath the videos on YouTube. Click on the images below to watch each of May's videos.

    I'm late, I'm late. This week I send some belated cards, which I purchased from a small independent shop called Box of Delights in Flitwick. In keeping with the theme this is the first video I've loaded up late too!

    This week I visit Waterstone's flagship store in London's Piccadilly Circus and buy congratulations and well done cards from some lovely American greeting card publishers.

    This week I visit the Tring branch of a small independent chain called House of Cards and shop for birthday milestone cards. Some lovely reactions to the cards from recipients at the end of this video.

    This week I visited the branch of a small chain of independent shops in Berkhamstead called Temptation Gifts and bought some funny birthday cards for old university friends.

    The fifth month of the channel had 750 views with viewers watching over 25 hours of The Greeting Card Project for an average of 2:02 per video. The channel gained 11 more subscribers,  13 shares and accumulated 51 likes and 1 dislikes. The total lifetime channel views is now 5,000.

    If you do watch and enjoy the videos please pop over to YouTube and subscribe. I'd also love it if you followed the project on my personal Twitter account @JeremyCorner and my new personal Instagram @JeremyCorner.

    Where possible there are hyperlinks to all of the featured companies beneath each YouTube video.

    April Review of #TGCP

    March Review of #TGCP

    February Review of #TGCP

    January review of #TGCP

    Learn why I started #TGCP

  • 14 Things I've learned on The Greeting Card Project

    #TGCPDespite my best efforts to focus on the journey rather than the outcome of my YouTube channel (The Greeting Card Project) I have found myself distracted by the numbers of late.

    Whether you set up a Facebook page, Twitter Account, YouTube channel or add Google Analytics to your Website, those cunning geeks from silicon valley provide you with a raft of information on how your particular digital poison of choice is performing. In the case of YouTube, you get to see the number of views, minutes watched, average view duration, likes, dislikes, shares and subscribers. The list goes on.

    I guess the idea of this is to have some KPI’s (key performance indicators) that will help you measure the success or failure of your channel. Which is fine, so long as you define the success or failure of your particular project in those terms. Last month, my dashboard was full of red downward pointing arrows (with the exception of my dislikes which has a perky little green arrow pointing upwards). As a result, I have been doing some real soul searching with regards to my project.

    Here are things I’ve learned personally whilst producing The Greeting Card Project so far this year:

    1. My fears have indeed been realised: A weekly video visiting different card shops is time consuming to make, load up to YouTube and share on social media (4-8hrs per video on average - even if all done on your phone). Don’t do it. Seriously. You have to be nuts to add this to your workload. Especially when the jury is still out on adoption rates of new tech by our industry (I still cannot get over how many business don’t have a simple web page).

    2. Your friends will only watch so many of your videos to support you. I have been paying it forward in our industry for a number of years now and have helped a lot of people. I’ve been speaking at the Ladder Club since 2004 and serve on committees for the GCA and the Giftware Association. Even with an army of support you cannot expect people to stay and engage without quality content that’s relevant to them or their friends and followers.

    3. Going into shops and choosing cards and talking about who you are sending them to might not be interesting enough to get more than 200 views per video on average. I need to accept this or evolve. It’s enough that I personally find it interesting visiting different retailers, selecting and buying different greeting cards, and working on my relationships. Numbers are not the only thing that matters to me.

    4. Weekly watching is as much of an ask for people as weekly video making. Peoples’ time is more precious than ever. The videos must be really good as they compete with so many other things vying for attention (content that’s funny, cute, weird or emotional). Note to self: I must get more kittens into my videos.

    5. I need to truly understand my 'why' on this project and project it even more clearly than I do. I believe card sending can help us to feel closer to one another. I do feel that the message I am broadcasting is important.

    6. Let’s face it, card sending is a pain in the backside compared with the ease of social media and texting. Honestly. If you don’t believe me, join me and send more greeting cards every week. You’ll see. Don’t be cheating with franking machines either. Buy stamps every time. Card sending is time consuming, expensive and laborious and you often don't even know if your card arrived safely through the post.

    7. When the card does arrive, it can feel really wonderful for the recipient, perhaps because we all know it's not easy to choose, buy, write and post a card (the feeling the recipient has is what keeps me going).

    8. Expecting positive reactions to a card, gift or video makes it all about me. The true purpose of a gift is that it is about the recipient, not the sender. You need to let yourself go and focus purely on the other to truly give. True love is a love of giving.

    9. I'm stubbornly sticking to my New Year's Resolution to do one video a week for the project this year. This is despite my better judgement at this stage. I feel that quitting this goal is a bigger personal failure for me. Discipline is key to success.

    10. It is unhelpful to me to measure the success of The Greeting Card Project in terms of views. If views plummet to next to nothing then it can seem like failure. Having said that, failure can be an important part of what builds our experience. Experience helps us make better judgements in the future.

    11. I'm seriously doubting the concept of being Open, Random and Supportive (ORS) at this stage. This is a driving principle for me in doing my project and something I am testing. The project is not about my business. Every week I promote my competitors cards by choosing them in the shops I visit. I’m also giving my competitors a free sales lead by promoting retailers to them each week. It might seem a little crazy, but it also feels incredibly liberating not worrying about this. Control is fear based. I refuse to live in fear. I have to let it go.

    12. Interestingly, people that I promote in my videos won't necessarily share the videos online. I don't understand why this is... yet. So far I’ve been assuming it's because they are just too busy or haven’t seen them (despite my emails and tagging on social media). It may be that they don’t trust my intentions, they don’t understand what I’m doing or they don't see the bigger picture. i.e. We are all in this together.

    13. Up to half of the shops I visit have zero web presence. Not even a simple website, never mind social media profiles (i.e. free websites). This is making each video harder to share to the niche greeting card audience that might be most interested. Websites and digital marketing are a must for small businesses.

    14. I'm becoming obsessed with post boxes. I love them. I love their bright red colour and the variety of types of them. What’s that all about? I'm working on a special post box episode for later in the year. A love of something so mundane is a source of genuine surprise and amusement to me. It’ll be postage stamps next!

    This month, the numbers on my YouTube analytics have really been challenging my reasons for doing this project. Yet the numbers are arbitrary in many respects. They don’t really matter. For some strange reason The Greeting Card Project is all I want to do right now. Making these little videos about cards. I feel it in every part of me, compelling me forward. Like it’s bigger than my company, bigger than myself.

    I’m so grateful to you for reading my blog. If you’ve watched even one of my videos or taken the time to offer feedback - thank you so much. I love what I’m doing. It really is the journey and the interaction with people along the way that makes all the difference to me. Do watch the videos though. Seriously. I’d be lying if I said the number of views didn’t matter at all.

    Watch all the videos on Jeremy’s blog at www.blueeyedsun.co.uk/blog/tgcp

    Subscribe to The Greeting Card Project on YouTube

    Discover why I started The Greeting Card Project

    Five ways to improve your retail business

  • The Greeting Card Project - April Review

    The Greeting Card Project - April ReviewThe Greeting Card Project is my year of sending more greeting cards and recording a video diary of my experiences, the shops I visit, the cards I send and my own personal journey.

    This month I experimented with shorter videos and have trying to group the occasions that I'm exploring and buying cards for. Click on the images to watch April's videos.

    I have quite a few friends with birthdays at this time of year, so I visited the Southampton Row branch of Cards Galore in London to see if I could find some nice birthday cards.

    As part of National Stationery Week I shopped at First Stop Stationers in Reigate for New Home cards this week. There was a good selection of great publishers in this shop.

    Thanks to The Greeting Card Project I visited the gift shop at RHS Wisley and bought and sent my first ever Easter Cards. They had an egg-cellent greeting card selection!

    Sadly, I had three separate friends suffer the loss of a loved one this week and I found myself making a video about sympathy cards, the most difficult and yet the most important cards to send.

    This week I visited an independent shop in Greenwich called Postmark. I love it when shops have space for customers to write cards and this shop even has a little letter box for posting them.

    The fourth month of the channel had 896 views with viewers watching over 24 hours of The Greeting Card Project for an average of 1:37 per video. The channel gained 13 more subscribers,  34 shares and accumulated 47 likes and 3 dislikes. The total lifetime channel views is now 4,391.

    If you do watch and enjoy the videos please pop over to YouTube and subscribe, as I need 11 more subscribers to get to 100 and get a specific URL for the project (at the moment it's just a random string of numbers). I'd also love it if you followed the project on my personal Twitter account @JeremyCorner and my new personal Instagram @JeremyCorner.

    Where possible there are hyperlinks to all of the featured companies beneath each YouTube video.

    March Review of #TGCP

    February Review of #TGCP

    January review of #TGCP

    Learn why I started #TGCP

  • 5 Ways to Improve Your Retail Business

    5 Ways To Improve Your Retail BusinessI'm now a quarter of the way into The Greeting Card Project, my YouTube channel where I’m sending more cards each week to try and feel closer to my friends and loved ones. I’ve visited a different shop for each video and have been learning a lot about retail with each visit.

    Here are five ways you can improve your retail business:

    1. Websites

    People are already talking about your shop online so you have to make it easy for them to share and recommend you digitally. Most customers that visit your shop will connect to the internet every day. You need to be there for them too.

    Under each video that I post, I add hyperlinks to all the retailers and publishers that are included so that viewers can easily click through and visit from them. Unfortunately I have not been able to do this for all I have visited as some don’t have websites nor any social media presence.

    If you don’t have a website, people like me can’t hyperlink to your business and you aren’t able to maximise your business presence online. Remember that these links add value to your website over time. They’re like road signs on the digital information super highway, all pointing to your business.

    You need these signs and you need a website. You can keep it really simple and it doesn’t have to cost more than a couple of hundred pounds. Using software like Wordpress you can use templates that are predesigned to be mobile friendly. You can always add shopping functionality later. For now you just need a web presence, even if it’s simply a single page with nice photos of your store saying who you are, where you are and links to any social media accounts you use.

    2. Your Brand

    Shops with their logo on their bags have benefited most because their brand features prominently in the videos when I pay for the cards. I love being able to share the shop brands and so do your happy customers. For instance, the other day I overheard a lady on her phone nearby telling her friend that she was in a lovely coffee shop and didn’t know the name. What a missed opportunity that may be happening countless times a day. To be honest, I still don’t know the name of that coffee shop either. Don’t assume that all of your customers know the name of your shop.

    Make it easy for your customers to know your brand so they can share it. Have it up on the walls, on your bags and even on your pricing labels. Add your web address to your till receipts and to your bags so your fans can rave about you online to their friends.

    3. Get Social

    You don’t have to be on every single social media platform that’s out there. Not all your customers will be using these tools. A lot are though and the majority of the next generations of consumers will be using them in some form or another. We all need to plan for the future of our business.

    I recommend Facebook, Instagram and Twitter primarily for strong engagement on social media. I’m also getting a lot of shares on LinkedIn at the moment due to my large network of over 1,300 connections there; people from diverse careers that I’ve met over the years.

    The people who get the best results tend to post daily and have a planned schedule of what they are sharing and how they are engaging. They are not just blasting out their sales messages. They are helping and engaging with others. Always listen first before posting on social media. Choose the right type of engagement for your followers and your fans before starting.

    Initially you’ll benefit most on social media from improved relationships with suppliers. Most of your card publishers are using these platforms and want to share you with their followers. Tag your suppliers in relevant posts so that they can help you to leverage and grow your presence online with their fans. Make sure you allow yourself to be tagged. Some businesses don’t do this and I think they are missing out too.

    Encourage your employees, friends and family to follow and engage with your brand online to help get it going in the digital domain. Each like, share and follow adds to the importance of your business to the Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram algorithms that favour the most active businesses online.

    I have to say that businesses with a website and active social media presence are a lot more attractive to me when choosing who to visit and promote for The Greeting Card Project. I spend a lot of my time and energy on each video, so I’d much rather visit shops that will help my YouTube channel reach a wider audience and get more people around the world sending greeting cards.

    4. The Customer Experience

    Having said that, I’m glad I’m staying open, random and supportive when visiting retailers for this project. That’s because some of the most interesting shops have not had any digital presence. Ironically, these are the ones that I think would benefit most from being online as their back stories are so interesting and their shops are so marvellous. I’m not going to embarrass anyone by mentioning names, if you watch the videos you can probably guess.

    My favourite shops have a mixture of cards and gifts. I prefer trade shows that mix these categories up too as I think you can zone out if looking at too many of the same type of thing. Some supermarkets can feel a bit like this for example. Personally, I prefer the Aladdin’s cave experience, where you feel like you can hunt out treasures for yourself or your loved ones.

    One of the most interesting retail experiences for me was at the Tate Modern which has several different shops that all work in different ways. For example, they have Tate Edit, in which they sell fine art prints and home accessories. As an art collector myself, it was so lovely to be met be a well trained staff member who talked me through the various items with a soft sales approach. Given that purchases in this shop are hundreds if not thousands of pounds, a more refined lifestyle, interiors type of space with a knowledgable sales assistant worked well. It felt more special, exclusive and nurturing.

    Having a mix of products and price points zoned in the right way appears to be a strong way of maximising sales in retail, as are well trained staff who can help customers enjoy their experience.

    5. Be Open Online

    The people who are thriving online are those that aren’t hung up on protecting their own interests and just looking out for themselves. Marketing is different in the digital domain. You are more likely to be following and engaging with everyone in your digital community these days, including your competitors.

    For some this is hard to get their heads around, yet in our industry we all have an interest in encouraging people to send more greeting cards. It doesn’t matter if you are a publisher, supplier, retailer or employee for one of these businesses. It’s one of the reasons organisations like the Greeting Card Association and Giftware Association have been working so hard to include retailers.

    If you are not a member of these associations, I’d encourage you to have a look at joining them. It’s relatively inexpensive for retailers to get involved and they are doing some fantastic work online. Look out for the video I shot of the recent GCA Dragon’s Den style pitching event as a great example of what lovely things we can do if we work together to help one another.

    I’d love your support for The Greeting Card Project too. I need 24 more subscribers to get the vanity URL, which makes the channel easier to share online. Please click here to subscribe.

    Marketing Then vs Now

    What consumers want from retailers

    Seven habits of highly effective retailers

  • The Greeting Card Project - March Review

    The Greeting Card Project - March Review

    The Greeting Card Project is my year of sending more greeting cards and recording a video diary of my experiences, the shops I visit, the cards I send and my own personal and emotional journey. I've had a lot of fun making The Greeting Card Project during March and I'm really enjoying sending more cards. I feel that the short films are gradually improving. I'm also feeling a lot more comfortable in front of the camera. Mind you, it's still a challenge to stay composed when there are other people watching me talk at my phone in public. Here's a quick update on what I've been up to on YouTube this month. Click on the images below to watch the videos:

    I recently attended a GCA industry event and asked different card publishers what their mothers meant to them and why Mother's Day still matters. It was really interesting to hear the different responses. I decided to mix the format up a little bit and experiment on a shorter video that's more shareable, so I didn't visit any shops in this one.

    I enjoyed shopping for Mother's Day cards at Carly's in the lovely historic village of Knowle. I also interviewed neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw to find out why it feels so good to use my new Lamy fountain pen to write my greeting cards. This week I created my personal Instagram account to promote The Greeting Card Project and gathered over 150 followers in 24 hours before I posted my first post! Click here to follow me here on Instagram.

    I have written most of the cards I've bought on The Greeting Card Project in capital letters. This is primarily because I feel self conscious about how terrible my cursive handwriting is. Capital letters are very 'shouty' though. Whilst it might work for the words 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY', it's not great for feeling connected as it's a little aggressive and is not a very gentle way of writing. I decided to try and get to grips with my handwriting by talking to Pen to Paper, a specialist independent shop in the North Lanes of Brighton. I also send birthday cards to three friends that inspire me.

    I love visiting the Tate Modern. It is a spectacular building with great views of London and four different shops within. They have an eclectic mix of unusual cards and some from their in-house set up which feature their artists. This week's focus is on cards for friends I haven't seen for a long time. It felt so lovely to reach out to them with a greeting card for their birthdays. I also decided to revamp all of the thumbnails for my videos as I wasn't particularly happy with them. The new ones look much better and will hopefully attract more click throughs.

    I'm not getting as much feedback on my videos this month, so I've started to look further afield to see if I can join more groups of people who like cards and might be interested in my project. I need all the comments I can get so that I can keep making better videos.

    The third month of the channel had 1,008 views with viewers watching over 29 hours of The Greeting Card Project for an average of 1:44 per video. The channel gained 11 more subscribers,  37 shares and accumulated 35 likes and 9 dislikes.

    If you do watch and enjoy the videos please pop over to YouTube and subscribe, as I need to get to 100 subscribers in order to get the specific URL for the project (at the moment it's just a random string of numbers). I'd also love it if you followed the project on my personal Twitter account @JeremyCorner and my new personal Instagram @JeremyCorner.

    Where possible there are hyperlinks to all of the featured companies beneath each YouTube video.

    My February Review of The Greeting Card Project

    Read my January review of The Greeting Card Project

    Learn why I started The Greeting Card Project

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