Carry on shopping

June 17, 2012

An interesting article was circulating this week about the impact of the recession on shoppers and hence how their behaviours had changed.  This got me thinking, always a bit dangerous, but isn’t it a case of the more things change the more they stay the same?

My take on it is this. 

Yes, we are still in recession and yes it has had an impact, but at the same time the same basic challenges still exist for marketing people.  It is still so much about Product, Price, Place etc, but not only are we having to work in more challenging times but then there’s also this thing called the internet. 

What that means is that a) people, and this is all people, have to some extent or another felt the impact of the recession and have therefore adapted their buying behaviours and b) the internet has been a catalyst for those changes. 

If anyone thought that the internet was going to make things easier for everyone then think again. For some maybe it does (make things easier) but for an awful lot of us it actually make things much more complicated.  We’re seeing that more and more with retailers being unable to effectively integrate their online and offline operations.  The internet has given huge power to consumers in their ability to research, compare, review and purchase.  Add in the economic downturn and this has given them real reasons to do more researching, comparing and reviewing.   Then we can’t forget of course that for conventional retailers it is not only about getting it right online – you’ve also got to get the basics right in store too – witness Tesco’s £1bn investment in its store portfolio and customer service!  And then it’s not just about doing that in a vacuum, you’ve got your competitors all experiencing the same pressures and looking to be more competitive themselves. 

So in short you’ve got a perfect storm being brewed up with consumers having to react to the economy combined with this great tool (the internet) to help them react more effectively.  But my point is this, despite the internet, and despite the economy, it still comes back to the obvious fact that success still derives from getting the marketing mix right.  The world has changed, but ultimately isn’t it still the same?

Don’t just do it

July 30, 2010

I read with interest in Retail Week a piece on B&Q and how they had embraced the internet for their on line research.

Using their own social media application ‘B&Q Voice’ they had generated their own panel of 80,000 customers which had allowed them to generate 2-way dialogue with their shoppers in the form of both quant surveys and through focus groups.

It is encouraging to see the research aspects of on line communities being made use of in addition to the ‘one to many’ broadcasting which seems to be the norm from many retailers.

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”.

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.

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!

The rise and rise of online shopping

November 18, 2009

Yet again we see a rise in online shopping; this time for clothes. This puts traditional shopping centres in a difficult situation: not only do shopping centres have to compete with online retailers with much lower overheads, but there is the added complication over whether to link from their websites to their retailers’ websites, potentially driving sales traffic away from their centre.

Most centres now do link away from their site. The rationale being that customers will use the internet to find an item they think they like, but come in to the store to look at it in more detail and maybe try it on and buy it. Clothing was seen as good example of this, but as we can see, growth in this particular area has been above all expectations.

From our own recent research, we know that 30% of Christmas Shopping will be done on the Internet this year, with a quarter of shoppers doing more shopping online this year than last.

Christmas spend set to fall by 15%

October 30, 2009

Despite signs that the recession is beginning to pass, research we conducted in the past week paints a worrying picture for the high street.  The run up to Christmas is the busiest time of the year for most stores; indeed many rely on this period to make any profit in the year. Results from our survey show, however, that the average spend on non-food goods this Christmas is set to decline by 15%.   As many as a third of all shoppers also believe that they will be spending less this Christmas than last year, with a little more than half believing that their total non-food spend will be unchanged. Unsurprisingly, the main reason given to explain this is that they are ‘cutting back’ in the face of the recession.

In further worrying news for the high street, shoppers project that almost 30% of their non-food shopping will be done online this Xmas, with as many as a quarter of respondents doing more so this year than in 2008.  We also found that around one in 10 shoppers say that they are ‘definitely holding back’ their purchases this year in anticipation of pre-Christmas sales.  This shows a rise compared to our previous research. A further third believe that they will hold back ‘somewhat’ this year – as a group these shoppers make up more than twice the proportion of previous years.  Clothing remains the most popular category to hold back on in anticipation of sales, but toys and games are estimated to be well up on previous Xmas research, as are electrical items.

Economic downturn impacts health food retailer

August 26, 2009

When I worked in health products it was certainly quite a conservative business.  Own label vitamins were still in their infancy and even in Holland & Barrett there were restrictions on the strength of different supplements.  The raciest thing we marketed under the Healthcrafts brand was a supplement called Z.E.S.T.  It was packaged in a black box with a grey top and was a vitamin based concoction including ginseng, hardly a forerunner of blue pills!

But I was some surprised, even amused by the news that Holland & Barrett are to diversify their product range into adult toys, or to be more specific ‘intimate massagers’.  The rationale in this case seems to be that this is as a result of the current recession.  In the words of a spokesperson for the retailer “People are spending more time at home during these difficult economic times.”

However the most positive way to respond to an economic downturn is to take risks, do something different when the tendency is to be more conservative, drop prices, stop spending and put your head in the sand. Why not try something new? It certainly gets people’s attention and changes perceptions of even your regular customers.  Even better, a shopper who never visits Holland and Barrett might be more tempted to see what else they have to offer and become a loyal customer. 

We know from our own research with shoppers that they are creatures of habit and visit the same shops day in day out without trying alternatives unless they have a significant huge reason to do so.

Could the actions of Holland & Barrett be enough to attract new customers and convert them to regulars buying their full range AND increase loyalty and frequency of visits of existing customers?

Why track party size?

August 7, 2009

This is question we are often asked, “can you explain to me why you track the size of shopper parties amongst shopping centre visitors and also why you ask spend questions of the shopper party not the individual level?”

Well, we know on average that around 60% of shopper parties are solus shoppers, in other words for these people the individual spend and the party spend is one and the same, but let us consider the other shopper groups. Let us take the example of a shopper group. Mum, dad and the ‘little un’ who is only 4 years old. Let us consider £30 spent by them on their shopping trip. The £30 was spent by the mother, but the actual cash came from the father’s bank account via cash point machine and wallet. The £30 was actually spent on clothing and toys for their daughter.

So is this spend by the mother the father or the child? Is this actually £10 per head or is it more meaningful to keep this at the £30 per party level?

Party size remains a key statistic for shopping centre managers. A fall in average party size combined with constant footfall can indicate a rise in the number of shopper parties and hence it is vital to measure spend at the party size too.