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Yikes! Forget Millennials, everyone is becoming a tech-based shopper

Every episode of Scooby Doo concludes with the unmasked villain declaiming “I’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” – and, even though Velma and Fred were clearly well in to their 30s, this was largely true. The same could be said for every report into the state if e and mcommerce this summer. Everything would be fine if it wasn’t for those pesky customers.

This week’s culprits are Millennials. They are much misunderstood and, when not rewriting how people do everything from dating to shopping, they are having a profoundly odd time with retailers.

The problem, you see, is that they aren’t like everyone else. They get technology; they are brand agnostic; they care only about brands that ‘represent’ them; they are driven by price; they are driven not by price but by experience; they don’t want technology they just want service… and so on and so forth it goes, with each report contradicting the last.

The problem is that we now have way too much data about customers. Forget all this millennials and Gen Z, and Gen A and so on. They do sort of exist – I am generation X and I do have different ways and wants to, say, my Baby Boomer parents or my Generation Instant Gratification kids – but what the endless research is really telling us is that the changing technology around retail has given shoppers choice in how they shop and they are really running with it.

Of course, for retailers the upshot is the same: they aren’t delivering the in-store technology, or they aren’t catering to the demands of the mobile luxury shopper, or they aren’t doing enough with VR. But what needs to be addressed is this idea that it is only millennials that shop …read more

Laura Ashley reports growing online sales

Laura Ashley [IRDX RLAU] today reported growing online revenues but falling sales across the business. It said ecommerce sales grew by 5.6% over the last year, following improvements to its multichannel offer.

The update came as the fashion to homewares retailer, a Top100 trader in IRUK Top500 research, reported profits of £6.3m in the year to June 30. That’s down from £22.8m reported in the 72 weeks covered by the previous financial statement.

Laura Ashley said that online sales of £57.3m in the year to June 30 were up by 5.6% on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, but overall like-for-like sales were down by 3.1%. Total retail sales came in at £252.0m during the year, down from the £363.2m recorded in the previous 74 weeks.

Chairman Dr Khoo Kay Peng said: “We are focussed on addressing the challenges which our business has encountered over the past year and are confident that we are well-positioned to overcome them. Our online performance continues to be strong and we saw like-for-like online revenues grow by 5.6% over the year. Customer responses to the improvements we have made to our multi-channel offer have been positive and we are committed to its ongoing enhancement and development.”

The retailer also said it was developing its international presence, both online and offline as it takes its multichannel approach further afield. It launched a website in China in November 2016 and is set to open its first stores in India in September.

Dr Peng said: “Laura Ashley is known worldwide for high quality, beautifully designed products. 33% of our sales come from products manufactured in the UK. We are confident that the enduring nature and heritage of this much-loved British brand as well as the execution of our business strategies, will help …read more

Retailers fail to address in-store issues that technology can improve, according to consumers

70% of consumers are familiar with Artificial Intelligence-based technologies and believe that it can transform their shopping experiences, yet 66% say that they have not experienced the technology in a retail environment, according to research from Vista Retail Support.

The survey reveals that 67%believe it should be a priority for retailers to implement futuristic technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) to enhance their in-store shopping experiences and increase convenience.

“Clearly, there is an overwhelming appetite for technologies that address the bug-bears of the physical shopping experience,” says James Pepper, technical services director, Vista Retail Support. “However, the research also reveals what could be a major blind spot for retailers, since the majority of consumers don’t feel that the requirement for technology that increases convenience is being fulfilled”.

“Respondents cited their biggest complaints as items being out of stock, a general lack of customer service advisors present in stores and too much time spent queuing at checkouts. These are all areas that can be improved by existing technologies such as AI-based virtual assistants and apps that allow shoppers to pay on their smartphones instead of joining lengthy queues. There’s a reason these solutions are still deemed ‘futuristic’ and this is due to the lack of implementation taking place in brick and mortar stores.”

The majority of the survey’s respondents (70 percent) say that they would be confident using an AI-based “virtual assistant” kiosk in a retail store in order to avoid the common aggravations of the in-store shopping experience. Furthermore, 61%of those who would find value in a virtual kiosk believe it would help them find out about products they would like to purchase that they might not have been aware of, suggesting that retailers investing in the technology could see an increase in sales as a result.

When asked which …read more

Mobile, a pint and insomnia drive Brits to spend £3.1bn on impulse purchases each month

The convenience of mobile commerce – and the web in general – coupled with a pint or two is propping up the UK economy with tap-happy shoppers spending £3.1bn each month on impulse purchases. Among the oddest are a furry rabbit, £120 worth of cheese, a castle for a pet cat, and 100 condoms.

From adding to their wardrobe to filling up their fridge, the average person spends £47.84 on spontaneous buys every single month meaning as a nation we’re spending up to £37 billion on these types of purchases over the course of a year.

A study conducted by delivery management company, Whistl, has delved into the impulse buying habits of the British public and revealed that a huge 91% of the nation make impulse purchases every month.

Top five items that are bought on impulse each month include:

  1. Clothes (56%)
  2. Food and drink (49%)
  3. Home accessories (34%)
  4. Shoes (27%)
  5. Jewellery (22%).

Looking at where Brits are going to splash their cash, supermarket trips seem to be their Achilles heel, as over half (59%) admitted that this is where they are adding the most extras to their baskets. Online retailers including Amazon and eBay were named as the next best places to go to indulge.

Insomnia and a pint appear to be the backbone of the British retail economy, with over a third (39%) of Brits admitting late night browsing online leads them to these types of purchases and 24% said having a drink got them pressing buy now. Others claimed a special offer makes them more likely to buy on impulse.

When it comes to the delivery time, some impulse buyers aren’t as eager as they first appear with over a quarter (28%) of those surveyed saying they are happy to wait a week for their impulse buys. However, a third are not so patient and are …read more

Sir Martin Sorrell: Digital uncertainties have failed to check the growth of Facebook and Google

The digital ad industry has had a difficult start to the year following a wider brand safety scandal and concerns around fake news, viewability, verification, transparency and measurement. However, that has not stopped advertisers upping their spend on the two main players.

While WPP says it’s seen a “marked pause” in advertising on YouTube over the first half of the year, it is still “pureplay internet” that is providing nearly all the growth in the UK market. While the TV ad market is holding its market share, other traditional channels are losing out. And boss Sir Martin Sorrell said WPP will continue to up media investment in Google and Facebook.

“There is increasing scrutiny from clients around the effectiveness of digital,” he said, speaking on a call this morning (23 August) following WPP’s half-year results. “But YouTube’s travails over brand safety, fake news, value, viewability, verification, transparency and the Google and Facebook measurement questions, these issues have not stopped or pegged growth of Google and Facebook in our media investment.

“Despite the uncertainties, this hasn’t checked the growth or importance of the duopoly in digital media.”

Google remains WPP’s biggest single media investment, with Sorrell saying he expects the company to spend more than $6bn on the platform this year. And he predicts Facebook will move up from third to second position, with WPP’s spend rising to more than $2bn.

Despite the uncertainties, this hasn’t checked the growth or importance of the duopoly in digital media.

Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP

Sorrell also once again brought up the spectre of Amazon, which is having an impact on most clients’ businesses and therefore on WPP. Amazon is also going up against Snapchat and Oath in an attempt to be the “third force” in the digital ad space.

Sorrell estimates Amazon’s ad revenues are around $2.5bn annually, making it a …read more

Mark Ritson: Brands boycotting Mumsnet for bad language have a deluded view of consumers

Mumsnet swearing

There can be little doubt that Mumsnet is a marketing and media phenomenon. Founded only 17 years ago, the site now attracts in excess of 10 million users a year and continues to maintain a double-digit annual growth rate. Aside from its sheer scale, the Mumsnet audience is also a tasty prospect for marketers because of its demographic and behavioural uniformity.

In an age of fragmented media and markets that fail to follow the traditional demographic stereotypes, Mumsnet is that rarest of things – a site that is predominantly occupied by a single specific type of consumer: mums. While a small proportion of the visitors to the site are male, the rest of its user base is the marketing equivalent of gold dust.

Almost 80% of its users are women, mostly mothers, aged between 26 and 45. These are the target consumers often too busy to consume other media as they juggle jobs, family commitments and children. Yet this is the audience that Mumsnet has built its business around. These women use the site to share experiences, provide advice and generally behave like an old-fashioned online community.

But there is a growing problem with this community. Browse the site for barely a minute and its becomes readily apparent: the first F-bomb is usually only three or four clicks in. And the bombs keep dropping. And dropping with such frequency and vehemence that Mumsnet begins to take on an almost Tarantino-like vibe. Posts like ‘Is this totally fucked?’ and ‘Can we talk about spunk’ are commonplace.

READ MORE: Mark Ritson – The National Lottery found out the hard way how moronic consumers can be

Most users appear comfortable dropping Anglo Saxon epithets into seemingly every possible conversation. An apparently harmless debate about married life detours into: “Fuck off you stupid prick of a husband, who …read more

Why traditional media are trusted to deliver

Direct mail

The option of directing spend towards traditional media is rising back up the agenda of marketers. Data suggests advertising in these channels retains high levels of consumer trust, which seems increasingly attractive to marketers in a world of fake news and intrusive online ads, not to mention frequent malware and cyber attacks.

For example, a recent survey from the CMO Council revealed that almost two-thirds (63%) of consumers would respond more positively to a social media ad if it appeared on a more traditional advertising channel. So how are brands responding to consumers’ faltering confidence in the deluge of digital media?

Max Langford, commercial director at SES Business Water, a water supply company serving more than 285,000 homes and businesses in the South East of England, believes there is a trust issue. “I know of cases where astute consumers have been duped by digital advertising and have unfortunately found that it’s not always what it seems,” he says. “Something that arrives through the post that you can touch and feel can seem more believable.”

It is a view supported by Royal Mail MarketReach’s research in May, which revealed that while 87% of people consider printed mail believable, only 48% say the same for email. It is a distrust fed, in part, by email saturation.

READ MORE: Download Royal Mail’s report here

Co-op director of brand Helen Carroll says the group consults its members on its use of digital and traditional media, an approach that reflects changing times. “This consultation with our members has quite rightly impacted on our advertising strategy.”

She says the group’s media mix varies dramatically across its different businesses depending on route to market, target audience and objectives, but that traditional media have a key role to play.

“We are a brand with an emotive and deep story to tell and therefore trying …read more

HR must get over its struggle with digital transformation for brands to thrive

hr employee

For many companies, digital transformation is a product of competitive pressure to improve the customer experience.

The technology and processes involved in this effort are now evident across every department of a typical business. Digital isn’t just disrupting business models but the process of work, too.

The race is to avoid being left behind as new and nimble competitors begin life with simpler and more powerful tech architecture, in a trend that fits the classic ‘S curves’ scenario, as shown below.

Chart: Chris Sandstrom, Chalmers University of Technology

In order to stay ahead of (or at least on) these curves, businesses need to properly understand new digital technology. Worryingly, an Econsultancy survey from late 2015 showed that although 71% of respondents thought it was important for leaders to be technically literate, when asked whether their leader was, 41% said ‘quite’ and 29% said ‘not very’.

HR is in the thick of it

HR is right in the middle of all these changes – changes to the concept of leadership, working processes, employee skills, the application of data, interdepartmental collaboration and tech infrastructure.

In Econsultancy’s best practice guide, ‘The Future of HR in the Digital Age’, and at its annual Digital Transformation conference, consultant Neil Perkin has highlighted some of the changes necessary within HR departments. The first is the growing role of data.

READ MORE: Why marketing and HR should join forces to drive advocacy among employees

HR departments are no longer the preserve of paperwork and face-to-face meetings. Analytics has its part to play.

Laszlo Bock, former senior vice-president of people operations at Google, has written about the company’s ‘three thirds’ hiring model. That means an HR department that breaks down as one third from HR backgrounds, …read more

How brands are switching up their approach to magazine advertising


Magazine brands are having a tough time. Sales are falling, and you only have to look at the latest ABC figures to see how fast.

Women’s weeklies are particularly struggling. The circulation of Time Inc’s Look was down 35.4% in the first half of 2017, with sales for Woman magazine down 17.6%. Men’s titles, TV listings and home interest publications also saw sharp declines. News and current affairs titles fared a lot better, in part due to the tumultuous news agenda – thanks Donald Trump.

Simultaneously, advertisers seem to be moving away from the medium. Total ad spend was £877m in 2016, a decline of 6.8% compared to 2015 according to AA/Warc figures. It forecasts that ad spend will drop by a further 8.2% in 2017.

Douglas McCabe, media analyst at Enders, believes this shift is due to a sentiment change among advertisers across all sectors, who prefer “shinier” digital platforms. Digital ad spend grew 13.4% in 2016 to £10.3bn.

“In digital, magazines have no particular advantage like they have in print. This is also a manifestation of a very broad shift to more short-termist marketing. The point of a lot of magazine advertising is that it’s highly visual, brand marketing, whereas what’s replacing that spend is direct response advertising online,” he says.

Despite these figures, magazines still play an important role in many brands’ media mix, and advertisers and publishers are finding new ways of working together. The days of advertorials are long gone, and instead of simply placing their creative in the right titles, many brands are eager to form integrated editorial partnerships instead.

“Brands’ starting point has changed and is now all about partnerships. They are much more integrated and are better amplified than with a purely advertorial partnership,” says Sue Todd, CEO at magazine trade body Magnetic.

The rise of the partnership

Last …read more

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