Archive for June, 2011
One of my goals as a nutritionist is to move people away from diet mentality, to have them stop chasing diets, counting calories and thinking about food only as a means to lose weight. When it comes to weight loss it is important to trust the wisdom of the body and use the natural rhythms of the seasons to our advantage.
Spring was all about taking in the bitter, astringent and pungent foods to help detox, stimulate metabolic fire and flush excess water from the body. We begin the fat burning cycle in spring and we really turn it on in summer. As summer begins, so too does our metabolic burn. In terms of weight loss, nature is powerfully on our side in the summer. Everything melts and changes form with heat. So, too, do our bodies. Our metabolic energy increases with heat. Our ability to burn fat, eliminate toxins, increase muscle mass and burn calories is highest in warmer weather.
In the summer our appetite lessens and we naturally eat less food. Food creates heat in the body, so we need to eat more in the colder months. But as the temperature heats up outside, our desire to eat big and heavy meals naturally wanes. The key is to tune into this, be conscious of this so you can naturally regulate your appetite.
It is also wise to eat your largest meal at the hottest time of the day. Between 12-1:30 the sun is highest and our digestive fire is the strongest. We have the ability to burn more calories at mid-day than we do in the evening.
The warmth of the summer also reinvigorates us, inspires us to play, have fun and be outdoors. We naturally recharge and renew in the summer. When we let go, play, lighten up and relax we are in the optimum state to burn body fat. When we’re stressed, worked up, intense and stagnant, the body can’t burn efficiently, in fact, the body stores more body fat. So summer is really an excellent opportunity to reshape the body naturally.
Summer is an excellent opportunity to do some emotional shedding as well. What do you want to let go of? Where can you lighten up? These are some questions to explore because our inner shifts affect our outer shifts.
Mother nature also gives us the perfect cooling foods to prevent us from overheating so that we maintain balance. Enjoy all the amazing summer fruits (apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, berries). Eat tons of salads and asparagus, celery, peas and cucumber. Lighter and leaner proteins like chicken and turkey breast and white fish are preferred and keep cool with aloe vera juice and coconut water. And of course ice cream must always be taken in during the summer months, so for a great treat try So Delicious coconut ice cream (available at health food stores and Superstore). They couldn’t have chosen a better name!
So this summer, let nature do its work. Relax and surrender to the weight loss process and trust your body’s wisdom to shed the unserving pounds naturally.
A few months ago a few of my new co-workers and I ventured off to Chinook Mall to see if the good old bricks-and-mortar stores had anything to teach us about how to do online merchandising. I’ll be honest, I had never thought about merchandising in an online context before. I’ve thought about marketing or promoting products on a website. I’ve worked with UX people who know how to create the right user experiences for customers. I’ve thought about branding on a site and conveying personality and creating emotionally engaging experiences. But I’d never considered merchandising on a site. But … it totally makes sense!
Here’s what we discovered:
- Human faces can be tricky: Sometimes they draw you in and sometimes you focus too much on them that you lose sight of the product that’s being sold. Let’s take Old Navy and The Gap as examples. Old Navy uses mannequins with goofy faces from TV campaigns to tie in their offline brand campaign. These faces distract me from the clothes (the product). The Gap, on the other hand, uses headless mannequins which put more emphasis on the product instead of the brand.
Lessons for online merchandisers: be careful about the images you choose for your site. Ask yourself if the human faces draw site visitors in and then lead them to the primary call-to-action/message or whether they just draw your visitors in then leave them hanging in eye contact. Often times, we’ll spend time looking at faces and judging them. They look old, they look young, they don’t look like they’d use this product. You know what I mean.
- Place your products based on where the customer is entering the storefront: With stores that have both mall entrances and outdoor entrances, this lesson becomes really obvious. You’ll notice that stores like Chapters place totally different products at the mall entrance versus the outdoor entrance. The storefront entrance is geared for the person who is more task-oriented and shows depth of the product. What you’ll see at Chapters, for example, is that the outdoor entrance is filled with books and topics/categories that show depth. The mall entrance is more for browsers and gives shoppers a look at the breadth of products. At Chapters, they do an amazing job with three tables with different types of merchandise that are seasonally based: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Vampires, books, iPods, chocolate, local books, magazines, etc.). The three tables have three different offers/sales to draw customers in and the mall entrance displays at least 10-15 different products whereas the outdoor entrance has just books.
Lessons for online merchandisers: ensure you tailor landing pages (virtual storefronts) based on where the customer is coming from. For example, use a different landing page for “new” customers (someone who has only made between one and five visits) and offer them a brand description, a search bar and product categories to familiarize themselves with the breadth of your product offer and core value props. Or, if your customers are coming from a partner, display both of your logos to strengthen the trust that the customer has in your brand based on the trust that they have for the referring partner brand.
- Demonstrate use and inspire your customers with ways to use your product: Apparel stores are really good at this. The Gap, especially. The Gap shows mannequins wearing separates/combinations in lifestyle poses throughout the store and at the back of the store there are these beautifully lit-up boards that show people wearing the clothes in photos. These lit-up boards draw you into the back of the store. So if you are standing out front, you might walk right in to the back of the store. The Gap also conveys their classic/simple brand by keeping the palette relatively neutral with the only pop of colour being the big blue nameplate. This really emphasizes their product – the clothes. Old Navy, on the other hand, just has shelves and tables full of stuff that you put together yourself with mannequins only at the front of the store and in the middle aisle. They are less about lifestyle and more about the volume of choices and coordinates that you can put together yourself. It’s the DIY of fashion.
Lessons for online merchandisers: consider showing how your product can be used or showing it in use. Showing customers with your product with testimonials is a great way of conveying use. A few great sites include “Ideas” sections where you can test drive products or get ideas on what an outfit or car would look like. This is a great way of introducing new customers to your product and having them “engage” with the product online where they can’t smell, touch or feel it like they could if they were in a store or a showroom.
- Grab your cart, then shop: This is a fascinating lesson. Think about your local grocery store. What’s the first thing you do? Grab your cart, right? And after you grab your cart, you shop like hell, fill up your cart and then head to the till and only then do you find out how much your groceries cost. The great thing about this is that there are no barriers to browsing and adding items to your cart. You don’t have to have a Safeway membership before you grab a cart. You don’t need to open a Bay account before you browse around.
Lessons for online merchandisers: so many online sites force you to have an account before you can put stuff in a cart. Consider making a cart available to all browsers and allowing visitors to put stuff into the cart. Show them the tally somewhere so they know how much they are spending and only at the point of purchase ask them to create an account. Make it part of the same process. What’s even better is that you now know what interests new customers and you can make recommendations on other products before they checkout or provide them with incentives to buy more (like Amazon’s Super Saver Shipping).
- Are you all about breadth? Or are you all about depth? Some places show you the breadth of the product offering and some show depth, depending on where you enter. Grocery stores show you breadth by using signage at higher heights; these help you know where you need to go. But at eye-level, now that’s where you will see sale tags and promotional offers. That’s because they are now trying to demonstrate depth to you. Choose this brand and save, or choose another.
Lessons for online merchandisers: think about whether you offer lots of kinds of products or just one product with lots of variations. If it’s depth you are going for, help customers find that right product for themselves. If it’s breadth, then help customers find the category they are looking for first, then focus on the specific brand they need.
- Help customers find their way with clear paths: Old Navy and grocery stores does this really well. At Old Navy, it’s clear that the men should go to the left and the women to the right (and children’s clothing was with women’s because women often shop with and for children). At Co-op, they almost force you into the produce section as soon as you enter so that you don’t get lost in all of the tills.
Lessons for online merchandisers: help customers decide where they want to go and provide “doors” to those areas that are more visual. Think about what they need as soon as they land on your page and provide doors that help them easily get to parts of the site where they can search or learn more about what is offered in that area.
- Place low-margin/high-volume products in high-traffic areas: With some products, you gotta sell lots to make a little. Smart retailers like The Bay place cosmetics at the centre of the store near the mall entrance where people will browse and may just end up purchasing a discretionary item or two. The reality is that you need to sell a lot of these products, so you gotta put them in high traffic areas like mall entrances.
Lessons for online merchandisers: if you have some little add-ons that you need to sell a lot of, think about where you get the most traffic and visibility and put them there. Perhaps if they are low-priced items, you promote them right at checkout (just like donation boxes at grocery tills). Or if they aren’t necessarily low-priced, maybe you should have a dedicated place for them on your homepage or your highest traffic entry page.
- Take every opportunity to cross-sell your shoppers to similar products: At The Bay, they put cosmetics, perfume and handbags near each other. And handbags flow into shoes, because every woman knows that bags and shoes need to work together. At Chapters, you’ll find science-y type games near the sci-fi and kids sections. Have you noticed that discount books and magazines are always located near the Starbucks in a Chapters? Maybe they are suggesting you enjoy a cheap read while you are drinking coffee.
Lessons for online merchandisers: think about offering “recommendations” or similar products on search results pages. Don’t clutter what the customer was looking for, but offer them up in a sidebar that says “similar” or “you might also like …” And if you can do this based on their past behaviour or the behaviour of their segment, even better!
- Place similar items near each other and use category labeling: Again, Chapters does a good job here. You’ll find the categories/sections are placed very strategically so you can just float from one section to another and it’s likely you could end up in a single section of the store for a few hours. You’ll wander from sci-fi to mystery to thriller without even noticing. Also, categories are often labeled in ways that would pique a customer’s desire to linger like “Hot & New” or “Editor’s picks.”
Lessons for online merchandisers: Similar to the last lesson, think about putting adjacent categories or navigation items next to each other. Don’t categorize drop-down items or lists alphabetically, but do them thematically. People might expect to see things like Spring, Easter and Religious Holidays all together in a category list.
- Some don’ts: The two stores that are great examples of what not to do are Jacob and HMV. Jacob has stupidly large posters in the front windows that show head/shoulder shots of women laughing and sharing drinks; the product isn’t shown or highlighted, and if I didn’t know the store, I wouldn’t be sure if they were selling the pill or clothing. Even worse, the posters block your view of products and entrances so they don’t pull prospective customers in.
Lessons for online merchandisers: be careful about the imagery you choose and make sure that it emphasizes your product or its use and that it doesn’t detract from it. And when naming product lines or writing about them on your site, try to stay away from jargon and internal terminology. Instead of putting the name of your premium line on your website, just say something like “premium products” and introduce them to the name of the premium product line on the landing page. Be descriptive for new customers.
I have to admit, I was surprised at how much offline merchandising could inform online merchandising. It’s a really interesting way to think about a site as a store. Do you have any lessons you’ve learned and applied? I’m all ears!
I’ve been spending a lot of time combing through resumes over the last few months. Like, hundreds. And I’ve had the fortune of sitting beside A-class recruiters while they are looking at resumes and hearing their feedback in real-time. Wow, it’s super enlightening to hear what they look for. I thought I’d share a few tips on what catches a hiring manager and recruiter’s eye and what makes us shake our heads.
- Don’t apply for jobs that you aren’t actually interested in or qualified for. It’s a waste of time for you and a waste of time for us. You will be spending at least eight hours a day at this place. Pick a place and a job you actually want to do. Even better, pick something you are good at and would love to do. Instead of spamming the world with a generic resume, hold off, wait for the job that calls you and go in with a sharp and single strike. Your chances of getting an interview will be so much higher and, even better, you won’t have to contend with a bunch of unnecessary rejection which will just bring you down when you actually need to be at your most confident and comfortable.
- Use the job ad description to focus your cover letter and resume. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a generic resume. Show me you actually took time to understand the role, the company and what we might be looking for. Your resume is the first conversation you will have with your potential manager, so talk to them. If I asked for someone who lives and breathes online, someone who has experience with online campaigns and someone who has international experience, show it to me. And show it to me in the first paragraph of your cover letter or first bullet list on your resume. I can’t believe how many applications I get that highlight qualifications that have nothing to do with the job. For example, I was reading a recent application for a marketing manager job. The applicant talked about their ISO certifications and project management skills. WTF? That’s not what I asked for.
- Make your letter/resume scannable and do something different (if it fits with the company culture). I can’t tell you how many long and meandering paragraphs I just gloss right over. I don’t have time to read an epic novel about you. Use the same principles of web writing: bullets, bold and font size. Help the reader pick out the most important information. And feel free to take a chance. I recently saw a one-page resume with a creative timeline attached to the back that showed the development of the applicant’s career peppered with personal facts. It was memorable. It was creative. And it was visual and easy to consume. And he got an interview.
- If you’ve been asked to provide your salary expectation, provide it and don’t beat around the bush. We are asking so we can judge whether you are in range and to understand whether you have a true sense of your value. You don’t have to put a single number. Put a range. And say whether you are flexible based on benefits.
- Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and feel free to use it as your resume. That’s one of the beauties of LinkedIn. I’m shocked at how many people apply for jobs at online companies and don’t have spiffy LinkedIn profiles. If you are applying for a few jobs at the same time and they aren’t necessarily in the same field, then keep your LinkedIn profile more generic and consider creating custom resumes for each role. But if you have a specialty or specific skills and are applying for the same role across a bunch of companies (like if you are a developer or designer or something), feel free just to create a kick-ass LinkedIn profile that’s descriptive enough of what you did at each job and just PDF it and attach it to your cover letter. I’m not sure how other hiring managers feel about this, but I see this as smart, efficient and savvy. If you don’t know how to create a great LinkedIn profile, this article by John Heaney on The Job Shopper is awesome.
- Speak the company’s language. Scan their website, see how formal or informal they are. Try to speak to them with the same level of formality their brand conveys. I work at a very casual and creative place. I can’t believe how many uber-formal resumes I’ve received. None of them make it to my shortlist because it tells me they haven’t understood that fit is just as important as skill.
Bottom line: make sure you know the job, you know the company brand and you know yourself. And then show it.
Below you’ll find an example of a cover letter I put together to demonstrate what the above looks like in practice. Don’t rip it off. It might not get you the job you want or need. Get to know yourself and create something that’s true to you.
Today is the first day of June. Friday is my birthday.
To mark my 34th year, I’ve decided to join my mother (Ruby Bedi) and my husband (Bruce) on a 30-day inner journey. The intent is to peel back the layers of inauthenticity, uncover and overcome deeply entrenched patterns, discover our individual purposes, and become totally present in our bodies. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure what to expect, but so far it’s started with a letter of intention and two nights of meditation.
If I’m brave enough I may share my letter of intention (written in the form of a “Dear God” letter) and other realizations and experiences along the way. But for now, I felt like it was worth saying to the world, “Hey guess what! I’m gonna commit to an inner experiment for the next 30 days.” I’m not good at commitment, so this is already the beginning of some kind of change.
Here we go … Wish me luck!