Banking on good service?

July 29, 2010

Interesting to see the launch of a new bank Metro Bank today and its intention to place customer service at the heart of its offer, and to use the shopping mall as it model.

We know from our own work in retail that good service remains the number one issue for all shopping centres, so making this a key differential is both a brave and commendable move. I’m not sure their rates will tempt me to open an account however I may well mystery visit them just to see exactly what it is that make them different.

False Positives

July 27, 2010

In a recent piece of research amongst shopping centre managers, we found that all the centres we spoke to are tracking footfall as part of measuring the performance of their centres. Footfall is useful figure  and a common currency that everyone can understand as it gives a broad indication of how a scheme is performing, so we weren’t that surprised by this result. What did surprise us was that less than 15% of centres were measuring their conversion.

Knowing footfall has gone up would lead you to believe that your centre is performing better, but if your conversion has dropped, you may actually have less people spending money than you had before.  So the centre may actually be performing worse in financial terms, but someone only tracking footfall may well believe that their centre is actually improving, and the root of the problem will never be looked in to.

By measuring other metrics such as conversion and party spend you can get a more accurate picture of the health of your scheme.

Designs on the future…

February 1, 2010

An interesting piece in this week’s Retail Week from Martha Lane Fox (subscription required). I quote from it here:

“I think stores, especially flagship ones, will not stock so much product and instead become a showcase for the brand with the opportunity to offer experiences and events to shoppers – a way of connecting customers with their values. Customers will then be able to order products via the web and collect them from local depots or central collection points.”

I happen to largely agree with this vision, but the big question is where does that take us? And following on from this, what does it mean in terms of store design and layout? Will shop units need to be so large, and if so what is to be done with all the space that will give us?

All good questions, I trust someone somewhere is looking for some answers.

Whatever next? It’s PyjamaGate

January 29, 2010

In amongst all the doom and gloom in our world it is great to see we still have a sense of perspective and the ability to focus on the real issues.

It seems that the wearing of pyjamas has become a hot topic for one supermarket in South Wales where customers have been pushing their trolleys dressed in their finest sleepwear. This of course raises a good question. Should shoppers be able to dress as they like or does Tesco have the right to dictate what their customers do or do not wear? Where does this lead on to? Banning football shirts but allowing rugby shirts, allowing jeans but not if they are too low slung?

Thankfully once again research comes to the rescue with the clarification that footwear must be worn and and nightwear is not permitted – a decision arrived at (according to the Tesco’s spokesperson) by “listening to customer feedback”.

I can really recommend Whatsisname.

January 28, 2010

Business Blueprints recently conducted a national survey of respondent’s views and aspirations on buying legal services.

Of those who had taken legal advice from a firm of solicitors in the last 3 years, only two thirds could recall the name of the solicitors that they had used. How scary is this for a brand?

Interestingly only 2 in 5 would definitely recommend the firm that they consulted, which may also be swayed by the fact they couldn’t remember the firm in the first place…

Changing times for shoppers?

January 6, 2010

As a new year starts, the first indications suggest that Christmas sales are being described as “buoyant”. Although a complete picture is yet to emerge, it seems that a late surge in present buying, that is for the ‘things that people think other people want’, in the final days before Christmas was combined with an immediate post Christmas surge. This was helped by the way that Boxing Day fell on a Saturday in 2009 as people with any money left to spend rushed out to buy the ‘things that they really wanted’, i.e. not the things they actually received!

This suggests that December tills may indeed have been ringing frequently however with the rise in VAT also helping to nudge up post Xmas revenues there is talk of January being particularly bleak to the point where some are claiming that the January sale is dead. Whilst I think that is premature generalisation as I sit through another TV commercial offering ‘buy now pay later for a new 3 piece suite’ or significant reductions on a new kitchen/bathroom/bedroom from the home improvers, the days of the January clear-out may well be numbered on the high street.

Anyway here’s looking forward to another interesting 12 months for UK plc.

The Power of Facebook

December 21, 2009

Anybody who had any doubt of the power of marketing on Facebook has had an object lesson this week from a couple from Essex. Jon and Tracy Morter successfully campaigned using only a single medium, gathering nearly half a million fans on their Facebook page. Taking a song originally released 17 years ago and beating the 4-month long marketing campaign driven single from Joe McElderry shows the real power of reaching people. Taken in conjunction with the fact that this campaign was only one week long, and had no budget at all the results are truly remarkable.

This may now mark a true shift in UK businesses perceptions about online and social media. As we’ve already said in other blogs, more and more companies are using social media to reach and understand their customers. This is what research has always been designed to do, but the advantage of social media is that it enables the possibility of personalised two-way feedback between a brand and their customers. 2010 will be a year that using social media will become a mainstream business strategy, with more brands realising the huge potential that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter bring.

An end to deep discounts?

December 11, 2009

As Carluccio’s announces its abandonment of 2-for-1 offers, does this herald the end of discounting in the casual dining sector? Or does it indicate the end of the recession?

The casual dining sector is one that has been particularly active in offering deep discounts, with Pizza Express, to name but one chain, seeming to run offer after offer to the point where one feels it is almost impossible to pay full price for a meal!

So does this give us the first indications of a shift to other forms of promotion activity, and, if so, will others follow?

It’s Cyber Monday

December 7, 2009

For those who didn’t already know it today, Monday 7th December, is set to be the biggest day for online shopping this year. Obviously many of you won’t actually read about this until Tuesday since you will be busy elsewhere in the internet!

Apparently we are likely to spend around £350m, according to IMRG. Interestingly our own research into Christmas shopping showed exactly what we will be both researching on the internet and actually buying this year.

The most popular product categories for ‘researching’ on the internet will remain CDs/DVDs/music (52% of those researching online will look at this category), ahead of books/stationery/cards (43%) and toys and games (40%). However electrical items (43%) appear set to be much more popular for internet research this year compared to our results from last year.

Items that will actually be ‘purchased’ on the internet are again headed by small entertainment goods such as CD/s and DVDs (54% of those who will buy on line will buy within this category), ahead of books/stationery/cards (43%) and toys and games. Internet clothes shopping appears to have fallen back vs. last year, whilst electrical good have held their own. The former may represent the best opportunities for off-line retailers, however we also know that this is the most popular product category for holding back on in anticipation of sales!

Virtual Malls revisited?

November 27, 2009

I know we’ve seen these before, but the latest version seems more interesting; although having said that despite the media coverage it doesn’t actually appear to be live just yet – maybe a case of the PR release going out a little too soon.

Going under the name NearLondon, a new web site will offer a virtual shopping trip around central London, apparently consisting of Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street in a slimmed down SecondLife style.

It appears that a number of major retailers have signed up to NearLondon already, which will allow browsing ahead of any real visits to London, as well as actual purchases to be made online. Interestingly, there is some talk in the media of replacing the traiditonal shop layout with more interesting interfaces: catwalks for fashion and stadiums for sports.