Jim Hickey’s American Politics

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Pittsburgh Consultant Susan McGalla Thinks Department Stores Must Get Social Through The Holidays

Hard times create opportunities, according to Susan McGalla, the founder of P3 Executive Consultants in Pittsburgh PA. McGalla is the director of strategic planning for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a former retail Chief executive officer. Susan’s 30-year career in retail has been a series of challenges and rewards, and she appreciates everything she experienced during those years. The retail business is not the same as it was 30 years ago. Companies like Amazon and EBay have changed consumers buying habits at the expense of brick and mortar stores. In order to survive in the retail industry today, companies must compete on two different playing fields, according to McGalla. The first field is in store and the second field is online. Online retailers are beating the big box stores at their own game because they are making shopping easier and more fun. Shopping is not only a necessity; it is also an addiction for some consumers, and online companies are fueling that addiction. But one regional department store is changing their image by using social media to make holiday shopping rewarding as well as fun for consumers. McGalla said Belk, the established North Carolina-based department store, has more than 300 stores and the executives at Belk teamed up with a marketing company known as HelloWorld for the second straight year. The holiday marketing program is called Santa Baby sweepstakes. Belk wants to boost brand awareness and increase mobile sales by allowing clients to create TV spots, gifs and e-cards. Belk is offering prizes that include instant win Belk gift cards and a $10,000 grand prize. McGalla said the program starts on November 7th and ends December 31st. Clients can enter the sweepstakes via the mobile Santa Baby site, and they can earn more entries when they refer friends to the sweepstakes on social networks. There’s something new about the sweepstakes this year, according to McGalla. Everyone that enters can share Santa Baby gifs, and they also have a chance to be featured on the sweepstakes site. And that’s not all. Consumers that enter the sweepstakes can vote for their favorite commercial ending. Favorite commercial endings will air on a Santa Baby TV spot on November 7th. Consumers can vote throughout the sweepstakes period for the one they like the most. Participants can check the standings every time they return to the Santa Baby site. McGalla likes the concept because it gets consumers involved with Belk without leaving home. That gives Belk the opportunity to expand their online presence. Rather than focusing on the consumer buying something, the Santa Baby sweepstakes gives them something. When consumers get something of value, they usually return to get more. McGalla said that behavior gives Belk the opportunity to market products in a subtle way. Brick and mortar retailers must get more creative over the holidays if they want to beat last year’s figures. One way to do that is to use the Internet for more than a online shopping destination. Consumers want to get as well as give during the holidays and Belk is giving in a unique way.

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