Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Retailing 2014: Customer-driven, tech-driven

What's ahead for retailing in the coming year? The trends can be summed up in two phrases: tech-driven and customer-driven.
Argos is one example of the customer-driven trend in retailing. In showcase stores, it's finally doing away with those laminated catalogues and tiny pencils and substituting iPads and super-speedy service. FastTrack, shown above, is the retailer's new service that promises to retrieve merchandise ordered on the website within 60 seconds of the customer entering the store. The idea is to make shopping more convenient at every point, from ordering to picking up to paying. Instead of looking at a catalogue, shoppers can browse via iPad kiosks and speak with live employees. Watch for several of these new stores to open around London before Christmas.

Burberry is another example, because of its multichannel marketing. Customers like choices--buy online? buy in a store? order online and pick up in a store? get more info? see what other customers have to say?--and Burberry lets the customer choose. With 16.7 million FB likes, Burberry has a lot of social conversations going. Incoming chief executive Christopher Bailey will build on Burberry's success and creativity to keep the brand at the forefront of multichannel marketing.

Amazon is, of course, a good example of the tech-driven trend. No detail is too small for the giant of online retailing. It files for thousands of patents every year, covering innovations as seemingly small as being able to churn out boxes in the proper size and shape for the endless array of merchandise it sells. It has just launched Amazon Coins, a proprietary virtual currency that Kindle users can use to buy apps or make in-app purchases.

Traditional retailers are using tech to make apparel fitting more convenient and more precise; to give customers access to exclusive content; and to better understand customer behavior. Privacy concerns are definitely an issue for customer-tracking systems (such as those that track shoppers via their mobile signals), but this trend will certainly accelerate in 2014.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Marketing Merlin (Now a Public Company)

Merlin Entertainments became a publicly-traded company on November 8, building on several years of brand building. Merlin is known for its Sea Life aquariums, Alton Towers, Legoland theme parks, Madame Tussauds wax museums and other attractions, including the iconic Eye (below). Last year, Merlin attractions entertained 53 million visitors worldwide.

Merlin's strategy is: 'To create a high growth, high return, family entertainment company based on strong brands and a global portfolio that is naturally balanced against the impact of external factors'.
This strategy means strengthening the global focus of its brand marketing. 'We have over 40 Sea Life aquariums around the world, which do site-based activity to reflect the local culture and market, but there is also now an overarching global marketing team that is ultimately the keeper of the brand', explains the head of corporate affairs.

Madame Tussauds is particularly profitable because once the figures are in place, the attraction requires much less additional investment than high-tech theme parks and aquariums. A social brand, Madame Tussauds has more than 300,000 Facebook likes and 30,000 Twitter followers.

Earlier this month, Madame Tussauds asked football fans to vote for the legendary player they want to see installed as the latest wax creation: Pele, Diego Maradona, Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore or Brazil's Ronaldo. The winner: Bobby Moore (England's 1966 captain), whose wax figure will be ready for the World Cup 2014.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

LEGO: Ready for the holidays and the movies

Just in time for the holidays, LEGO is once again showing sophisticated displays built of plastic blocks in Covent Garden. This year's winter display is a giant snow globe filled with miniature versions of the London Eye, Big Ben and other iconic sites of the UK. Last year, LEGO built an advent calendar out of plastic blocks...all to show the creativity and versatility of a toy that remains on most "must-have" lists. In fact, according to experts, the 2013 top holiday toy list includes the LEGO City Coast Guard block set.

Yes, LEGO designs are big business. A new display of LEGO architecture at the Paisley Museum recreates many familiar sites from around London, from Olympic Park to St Pancras Station. Visitors will appreciate the ingenuity of the designs and go home inspired to build their own versions, or assemble something from the many available kits.

LEGO, the world's 2d-largest toy maker, stays on top through constant innovation. Designers hoping for a LEGO job arrive in Denmark every year to participate in a challenging two-day "recruit workshop." They receive a bag of LEGO blocks with instructions to build something that fits with a current product-line theme; they're asked to design mini-figures; and all the projects must be completed within a strict time period, working alongside other competitors for the few LEGO jobs that are to be filled. 

What's next? Early in 2014, watch for the LEGO movie being released by Warner Bros. and promoted by social media.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Trust + reputation + service = Customer experience

The latest survey of Top 100 UK Brands for customer experience shows what happens when well-known brands get a reputation for trying to dodge corporate taxes.

As shown at right, the top 2013 brand for customer experience is John Lewis. However, Starbucks, which has been criticised for avoiding UK corporate taxes for several years, isn't anywhere to be found on this year's list of 100 brands.

Nunwood, the consultancy behind this survey, notes that customer service in meeting needs is important, but so is trustworthiness and reputation. The companies in this 2013 Top 100 list scored the highest on all those dimensions.

Some companies are new to the top of the list, others have been near or at the top for some time. Take a look at this comparison of the top 10 in 2011 and the top 10 in 2013. John Lewis, Amazon, Virgin Atlantic and M&S (food and brand) have extended their top-10 stays, even though they're not at exactly the same spot in the survey from one year to the other.

  1. John Lewis
  2. QVC
  3. First Direct
  4. Amazon
  5. Virgin Atlantic
  6. Marks & Spencer (food)
  7. Lush
  8. Ocado
  9. Marks & Spencer (brand)
  10. Waitrose
  1. Amazon
  2. John Lewis
  3. Virgin Atlantic
  4. Emirates airline
  5. Marks & Spencer (brand)
  6. Marks & Spencer (food)
  7. Millie's cookies
  8. Gregg's
  9. Hilton hotels
  10. Krispy Kreme donuts

Friday, 8 November 2013

2013 holiday adverts debut online

At one time, November meant the unveiling of dazzling holiday window displays in high street stores.

Now November also stands for holiday advert debuts. M&S is only one of many UK retailers revealing its holiday ads on multiple screens--TV, mobile, and beyond.

John Lewis is unveiling its 2013 holiday animated advert this weekend, as if you didn't know by seeing the Twitter hashtag #sleepingbear and the teaser ads leading up to the big event. Of course, John Lewis showed its advert online first. The official TV debut is during X Factor. 

Tesco is going all out for nostalgia, complete with a Rod Stewart soundtrack for its holiday advert.

Designer clothes are the stars of the Debenhams holiday advert this year, adding glamour to a heartwarming reunion story. The finale takes place on ice, just the right touch for a winter holiday feeling.

Marketing Week critiques what it calls the winner, the runners-up, the losers and the bizarre holiday ads here.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Digital sparkle for Marks and Sparkle

Marks and Sparkle--er, Marks and Spencer--has adopted a digital-first marketing strategy.

Whatever it does, it does on social media or online first. Like its Holiday 2013 advert (see at right), which went live on YouTube before appearing anywhere else. As the economy improves, M&S wants its ads to sparkle and capture the magic of the holiday season.

Digital-led marketing is part of M&S's strategy to capture younger shoppers and let them browse and buy in a multichannel manner. Apps? Yes.  Shop Your Way, the M&S program offering buy-by-mobile, buy with a call, buy online, order in a store, and so on, is leading the way towards a 28.5% multichannel sales increase. However, profits are lower as M&S invests in stores and marketing.

Social media marketing is a battleground for retailers and upscale brands these days. Here's where M&S stands with social media fans: