Secret Marketer: Cyber security and plastic bag taxes are making an already tough environment harder

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with a number of my peers in the marketing industry at awards nights and conferences. This is always a healthy experience, as we can chew the fat on what is really happening in our world, as well as compare notes on the challenge impoverished CMOs are faced with when sat around the boardroom table.

Secret Marketer

There are two noteworthy discussion points – connected to recent news items – that are causing businesses quite a few headaches. As a result, marketers are being prompted to come up with the adequate answers.

The first is that some retailers are muttering about witnessing the first ever slowdown in the growth of online sales. What blasphemy, you cry. But the truth is that early analysis shows the fall-out from the TalkTalk and other cyber security-related issues is making customers think twice.

On closer inspection, it appears the problem is two-fold: firstly, some customers are starting to question whether the online channel is secure. They fear that by purchasing a Christmas jumper on their favourite store’s website, they’ll really just be opening the door for their bank account to be siphoned off and their name, address and date of birth to be sold to the Sunday newspapers. Secondly, there is a genuine feeling that the protection websites have been forced to employ through multiple passwords and user names has just made the whole experience too complicated.

The other issue causing businesses distress involves the introduction of the 5p plastic bag tax. Retailers have not only seen a growing disenchantment from loyal customers at the point of sale, refusing to hand over 5p on top of the £250 they have been happy to pay, but more worryingly retailers are seeing a massive increase in ‘shrinkage’ (better known as shoplifting). The issue appears to be that savvy punters are changing behaviour, making shoplifting easier. They are bringing in their own bags, and with the rise in contactless payment and an absence of receipts it is proving hard for customers to prove they have paid, which makes security guards reluctant to challenge them and damage the delicate customer relationship.

Both cases are hard to resolve. Security is important, as is protecting the environment (and obeying the law), but at a time when customers are hard to obtain and even harder to retain, it is a delicate issue. Customers expect you to know who they are, and to trust them. Little do they realise that it is the bad eggs who ruin it for all of us.

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