Get in shape to be a future high street winner

It was really refreshing to read Mindi Chahal’s positive story on the high street last week. It has been a tough start to 2013 for many as the high street’s evolution gathers pace, and it was good to hear that brands harnessing their customer relationships in ever more creative ways are those enjoying success.

In Darwinian terms these are leaner, fitter retailers who crucially offer relevance to shoppers’ needs. So if it is a question of survival, how can retailers best get in shape?

The good news is there are lots of (less expensive) things that can be done today to inspire shoppers to visit and spend in the high street.

Key to this is understanding shoppers. Tapping into their motivations is critical to designing the right activity to run and the right channels and technology through which to influence and engage with them. When you successfully tap into what motivates your shoppers’ actions, you can create engaging retail experiences that drive sales and improve your brand’s equity.

One example I know of is Havaianas’ Paint-To-Purchase campaign to launch a new store in Singapore. Mural art has always been a communication tool for the brand, so it used local art students to create paintings every two hours with a different offer attached. Shoppers took a snap of the art on their phone and dashed to the store to redeem it before the next painting was completed. This boosted brand equity, footfall and resulted in an eight-fold increase in sales compared with the previous store launch.

So how can retailers evolve? I’d suggest following these four principles: know what motivates your shopper; be relevant; be intuitive; but above all, be useful.

Ian Foulds, insight and strategy director for global shopper marketing agency, Integer

High street retailers should think close-to-home

While I absolutely agree with all the sentiments expressed in your feature on ‘Open all hours: the future of the high street’, I feel that one of the biggest challenges for retailers is how they differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace.  

Of course digital innovation and integration is vital, but with shoppers bombarded by communications in every shape and form, many retailers are overlooking an important resource they already have to create bespoke, value-adding marketing communications: the store itself.

If the high street is to remain an integral part of our lives, retailers and brands must work together and think creatively about how they can optimise their retail spaces so that they can capitalise on the added value that bespoke in-store experiences can create.

Charlotte Amos, head of retail, Haygarth

Kill the weak; create a tyrannical system

The horsemeat scandal and Mark Ritson’s aggressive recent column have again highlighted exactly what’s wrong with modern business practice. A basic lack of responsibility which has enabled companies to build and abuse extraordinary levels of power.

I know Ritson loves to court controversy. But his ridiculous assertion, when we are knee deep in another breach of trust scandal, does our industry no favours.

“Weak brands must die, and strong brands must kill them”. So competition is not in the customer’s interest? The supermarkets – and Amazon – destroyed the small (and not so small) businesses on the high street, the banks swallowed the building societies, and look how well that worked out.

Personally, my 25 years in marketing have never been under-pinned by a desire to ‘kill the weak’. Being number one is not the same as being the only one.

The horsemeat scandal is the latest in a long line of bad practice. The supermarkets’ race to the bottom has made the food chain so complex and opaque that no one knows who’s responsible and whether the problems are down to criminality, ignorance, laziness or sharp practice.

So now we have a society run by big organisations that are anything but fit for purpose. Survival of the fittest? Don’t make me laugh.

Sam Bridger, managing director, Sam Bridger Consulting

Don’t be left on shelf by Google’s rejig

Google Shopping has introduced changes meaning retailers are required to pay to have their products listed.

Our advice to retailers is to set up trial paid Product Listing Ads (PLAs) with Google and manage product feeds to ensure product data is as relevant as possible for target audiences who are increasingly searching for products both online and in store.

Recent research by IMRG shows that 48 per cent of smartphone owners carried out some pre-purchase research from their mobile device over Christmas 2012, an increase of about 9 per cent on the previous year.

Indeed, the percentage of retail sales that are made through online search continues to grow exponentially.

While many retailers may focus on the cost of paid-for listings, the opportunities for boosting sales are huge as Google adds new features such as catalogues, offers and shortlists. Retailers who welcome change and trial new techniques in online advertising are more likely to succeed.

And as customers use search in-store for price comparison, can retailers afford not to embrace the opportunities these changes offer?

Hedley Aylott, chief executive, Summit

Brands taking health option

The evolution of many brands from ‘pharma to lifestyle’ reflects the changing attitudes of a more enlightened population. There is a growing shift away from government-administered care, towards self-assessment and self-improvement.

This makes sense of the holistic, pharma to lifestyle model and brings huge opportunities for brands to build commercial relationships with consumers beyond simple product transactions. The ‘quantified self’ trend and health-related apps means FMCG and healthcare brands alike can build strong relationships with their customers.

Adam Graham, chief executive, Weapon7

Social isn’t the only route

Mark Ritson is right to assert that marketers should choose the most appropriate communication tool and that social media is not the be-all and end-all (MWlinks.co.uk/RitsonSocial).

Looking back at the channels we have used in the past six months to communicate sales promotions we were involved in, only 3 per cent were digital promotions through Twitter or Facebook, despite the social media hype. Eight per cent of our campaigns took a multi-channel approach, which might seem relatively low.

As Ritson says, each channel must be considered on its merits to achieving the brand objectives. And, once chosen, it must be reviewed regularly to ensure it is still the most effective approach.

Dawn Stanley, senior account manager, Protravel

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