Are you a reader of the “Database Marketing” magazine? Its a great read for all those people that are interested in databases, business intelligence, analysis and news. In their January edition they published a letter from Guy Mucklow and it is something which resonates with me. I’ve also been reading about all the well known stores that are shutting down because of the economic environment – HMV, Jessops, Comet, Blockbuster, Republic and only today Readers Digest (yes they are still around) have just filed for bankruptcy in New York.
.. an important wake up call for retailers not to become complacent when it comes to balancing the bricks with the clicks. The internet isn’t killing the high street: it’s simply altering customers’ expectations.
Mucklow then goes on to say that the failure for brands to adapt to the changing environments is what is killing their business. So if we take the example of Readers Digest. I am sure that everyone reading this can remember reading at least one article in either a doctor’s surgery waiting room or their mother’s downstairs loo. So how did Readers Digest manage to accrue debts of £300m but have assets of over £645m?
Ok lets take an empty nest mother as an example. She is an experienced silver surfer, used to get the Readers Digest all the time and now because of her other interests she gets all the information that she wants via the internet. Readers Digest has been replaced with RSS feeds and a subscription to The Times online. Did they do enough of trying to engage existing subscribers (did they assume that their core subscribers weren’t interested in the internet) and migrate them from expensive magazines to online only content? For me the Readers Digest website should be a source of information but the first page is mostly adverts for subscriptions which is rather off putting for click-throughs. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Readers Digest.
What about Blockbuster? When was the last time that you went inside? With the speed increases in internet companies like LoveFilm and NetFlix saw the gap and offered the ability to download films (I must add that prior to this LoveFilm offered a subscription based postage model which for a monthly fee allowed you to receive as many films as you wanted – for as long as you wanted!).
Did Blockbuster do anything? Again – too slow to adapt.
So essentially we are looking at multi-channel strategies becoming the life blood of the organisation.
The perception is often that consumers are turning their backs on the high street when in fact the modern consumer wants to shop in a variety of different ways, without giving up on any one method. Getting it right, however, is definitely an art and not a precise science.
So with the high streets becoming barer and barer, long established chains shutting down and online superstores taking over the retail world.
How are businesses likely to succeed?
Niche and cottage industries?
Yes but they will still need to manage multi-channels. The main UK supermarkets are doing great business online offering everything from sofas to groceries but, do you know what the differentiating factor that my mother used when deciding which chain to use. By choosing the store that not only delivered to the door, but also brought the shopping inside. Simples! Asda failed citing health and safety.
Also being able to react to changes in the market place is essential. HMV was too slow to respond to the online market and the download phenomenon – whereas Play.com seemed to embrace the online only channel and succeed. Lets not forget the issues that were surrounding Apple’s iTunes not allowing non-Ipod devices to hold their music – which must have been a massive issue as iPods were the “to-have” device.
With Jessops, well it was very much a niche industry some people were hanging onto their Bronicas and film cameras whilst others were embracing the digital age. I’m not saying that Jessops were slow to adapt. However, I feel that the online experience was much poorer than a competitor like Wex Photographic (aka warehouse express). Photography is very much a hobby for most people and they like bargains – EBAY – must therefore be considered a danger to any retailer. People who are busy don’t mind waiting for a delivery if the price is right.
Its always important to look to for the gaps in the market – something that no one else has done before but is in demand. If something is new then get in quick (you don’t necessarily have to be the first but, do it better, learn from their mistakes). Websites don’t need to be expensive but they do need to be effective; and be a part of not only the marketing strategy but also the COMMUNICATIONS and PRICING strategies.
Thanks to the editor of Database Marketing for allowing us to write this blog post.