James Kydd, director, Start Creative

It’s incredible that so many big brands have yet to make the link between physical and digital retail. John Lewis has done it to a certain extent, at least creating a relatively seamless shopping experience between the two channels. Argos too should be applauded for adding some interrelationship between its retail offer and online capability.

Yet few others have overcome the intense competition that appears to exist within many large companies. It’s retail versus online - each loves it when the other screws up. Bonuses tend to reward sales in a particular channel, so the end result is that the channels are in competition with each other. This is madness and probably explains why most retailers embrace the potential of digital commerce with the enthusiasm of a 14-year-old being made to visit a distant relative.

Some retailers are doing more than just sticking a computer on the sales floor with a note on it saying customers can use it. The Adidas miCoach programme, for instance, mixes in-store testing with online data capture, and there’s an app as well.

New Look has built a community via its website to use as a barometer for its clothing range, with information gathered influencing what’s sold in the future. Asda has gone one stage further with its Chosen By You initiative, which has led to more than 1,000 new or modified products in its own-brand range. Such examples are few and far between and, in many cases, restricted to partial integration for a campaign period.

The true prize is when retail and digital work together in a way that totally integrates what each channel can offer the consumer. It’s what they expect. As should every MD in the land. Yet it’s not happening.

The explosion of social media has led to a massive increase in word-of-mouth marketing as a marketing tool and, according to a recent report by word-of-mouth consultancy the Keller Fay Group, the UK is well ahead of the US in this respect. Yet this marketing tool is predominantly used by consumers rather than marketers. Consumers have always had a predisposition to recommend products or services that they like (and slag off the ones they don’t).

These conversations are happening in spite of brands’ medieval approach to making their offer a seamless one, which recognises the interdependence between the physical and virtual worlds. Unravelling the current bonus structure is an essential step. When that happens, the floodgates will surely open to the overall benefit of all retailers.


Published 11 November, 2010 by NMA Staff

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