All posts in retail

Here at RumbleChat we unashamedly love a bit of #houseporn.  So when the first of our clan mentioned their visit to the fabulous state-of-the-art MADE.COM showroom in Soho, the rest of us were compelled to follow, lemming-like, to gaze in wonder at this experiential interiors delight.

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An innovative take on the new clicks and mortar approach to retail, MADE.COM HQ is situated at 100 Charring Cross Road, directly opposite that bastion of old-school retail, Foyles bookshop. Two polar opposites of retail experience, within spitting distance.

MADE.COM is one of my favourite homeware brands.  Its ‘cut-out-the-middleman’ ethos enables it to deliver quality, design-lead furniture at a fraction of the usual high street price, which came in mighty handy when undertaking my house renovation in 2011.

MADE.COM have streamlined furniture design and revolutionised the homeware business model. In 2014 they were the second fastest growing tech company in the UK.  They use crowd-sourced design, whereby only pieces with the highest consumer votes make it to production to ensure that new collections remain fresh and appealing.

The only downside to the early-days business model was the fact that you had to buy products unseen. MADE.COM addressed this issue in 2012 with the opening of a (lovely, but bog-standard) Notting Hill showroom. Fast forwards to January 2015 and they opened their flagship showroom, a physical/digital hybrid perfectly aligned to the needs of the voyeuristic clicks and mortar consumer.

The vast expanse is divided into lifelike ‘room’ settings.  There is a kids’ area, proudly displaying items from the new children’s range, including the scandi-style Linus bunk bed which was immediately added to my lengthy wish-list.

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The backdrop to these ‘real’ room settings is a rotating digital catalogue of MADE.COM furniture items projected onto adjacent walls.  It’s a simple yet innovative concept that means that MADE.COM can change the display without incurring the cost or hassle of shipping in new furniture. The images may be a wee bit flat (there’s definitely no 3D augmented reality going on here), but it still works really well.

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One entire wall is made up of a gallery of product postcards, where you can take away handy reminders of products that have caught your eye. Next to this sea of postcards sits a bank of android tablets, with a fabulously explicit call to action that again seamlessly connects physical with digital.

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By submitting your email address (mandatory for signing into the devices) the retailer can track your footfall and interactions as you traverse the showroom…genius! Meanwhile a bank of Apple Macs create an internet café vibe at the back of the store, enabling you to browse and order in a home-from-home fashion while notices on walls and tables remind you to share products you like on social media.
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None of this is rocket science, but the combined effect of all these simple touches is to create a unique, harmonious fusion of innovation and tradition. MADE.COM has cleverly created the perfect amalgam of physical and digital to satisfy the wants and needs of the modern shopper. We’re suitably impressed.

I love a bit of retailer innovation.  So imagine my delight when I nipped into town for a few (boring) essentials this morning, and found myself face-to-face (or should that be face-to-bonnet?) with the fabulous Bessie the Bus. For those of you unfamiliar with Bessie, she is Oasis’ new mobile shop. You can check out her story here.

Bessie is an old mobile library, refitted in a fab #fashpack style is currently on tour.  Her schedule is chocca – she’s visiting regional events, retail parks, and high streets where Oasis does not currently have a retail presence. What a brilliant concept – the store that comes to customers rather than waiting for customers to come to them.

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What makes Bessie even better is that fact that she’s not simply an Oasis groupie…or worse, a jumped-up-market-stall. She’s had a modern-retro makeover that accentuates her fun, quirky side. Her  bespoke interior includes a kitchen hob holding key accessories, a breakfast bar that doubles as a hanging display unit and a jewellery box that opens to print customer receipts She also has a fitting room and the best sales staff EVER (how much do they love their jobs?!).

Bessie has more than 250 stops planned in her 2015 tour…so it shouldn’t be long before she’s at a venue near you. You can even petition for her to visit your town via Twitter using #bessiethebus. Go Bessie!

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I don’t know about you, but it’s taken me a while to find my 2015 stride.  I mean, it’s hard to believe that we’ve finally reached the year that Marty Fly visited in Back to the Future II. So it turns out that we don’t have flying cars, there isn’t a female US president and hoverboards are not the favoured transport of the younger generation.

The film did, however, accurately predict handheld tablets, 3D movies and video conferencing. In comparison to 1989, when it was made, the technologies of today are unrecognisable and far-fetched.   But as with everything, the progress has snuck up on us gradually. We don’t bat an eyelid at Google glasses and Skype is pretty run of the mill these days. It’s easy to dismiss how far we’ve come.  The advances in marketing since 1989 are even more radical. Our industry changes so rapidly and hindsight nearly always provides a glaring missed opportunity or ‘could have done better’ moment.

So, how to grab the marketing bull by the horns in 2015? My top tip would be to stop chasing marketing trends and take some time to design a strategically driven marketing mix for your business. It can include several compatible strategies and merge traditional and digital channels to produce the perfect brand-oriented marketing blend.

It may sound obvious, but successful content marketing is reliant on a content marketing strategy.  This strategy is essential. It guides your otherwise eclectic content marketing efforts and is the cornerstone to digital marketing success. Whereas content was undeniably king in 2014, in 2015 it will take on a more presidential role.  By which I mean it is pivotal to all your communications, not just an insubstantial figurehead. Make sure that you are investing in content creation and curation.  You can no longer afford to ‘wing it’, using an ad-hoc/when you’re not tied up with other things approach.

Let’s not forget that the bastion of content marketing is a customer-centric vision.  In 2015, our ongoing quest is to improve the customer experience.  Customers these days are incredibly aware of their worth, and empowered by the knowledge that a single complaint on social media can have a costly impact on a brand.

So, in a nutshell, the best way to apply this to your content marketing is:

  • Get personal – connect, engage and listen intently.
  • Customise – where possible make sure your content is always relevant to your target audience and tweaked for brand relevance.
  • Entertain – within reason, you can’t go wrong if you’re entertaining your customer.
  • Build brand ambassadors – they will be worth their weight in gold.

The other key aspect of marketing in 2015 is to ensure that you THINK MOBILE FIRST. Smartphones and tablets made up 60% of total digital media time spent in 2014 (up 50% from 2013). 2015 looks set to build on this, as analysts are predicting that by 2017, mobile will represent 91% of all internet use.

The key learning here is to keep mobile users at the forefront of your mind in terms of all website updates and marketing communications. If you ensure that you keep the customer front of mind in all your marketing activity you should avoid falling foul of 2015’s big bombshell…DIGITAL DISAPPOINTMENT. Digital natives are the most spoilt and demanding customers ever.  Find a way to make meeting their digital expectations the core of your business and you might just be onto a winner.

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If, like me, you decided to give Black Friday a wide berth, then Cyber Monday is probably much more your cup of tea.  Loads of bargains, but without being barged / rugby tackled / swore at. The civilised way to sort your Christmas shopping. And from the comfort of your own home – what’s not to love about that?

As someone who would rather stick pins in my eyeballs than wrestle fellow shoppers in a claustrophobically crowded retail destination, Cyber Monday is extremely appealing. I just don’t have the patience for shopping in the real world. All that hustle and bustle just makes me stressed.  I do seem to vaguely recall a time when shopping was a fun pastime, but those days are long gone.  Nowadays If there’s more than two people in front of me at the checkout, I start to get a bit fretful and am prone to abandoning my goods and steaming straight out of the shop in a huff. In fact, just thinking about trying to navigate a town centre on a weekend in December is making my chest tight.

So hurray for Cyber Monday…and working from home!  The perfect way to get Christmas sorted without losing your mind.  All the usual suspects are taking part: Amazon, Argos, Tesco, ASOS, The Disney Store…in fact it’s probably quicker to list those that aren’t participating.  To make things even simpler this year, lots of sites have compiled a round-up of the best offers available.  Check them out for inspiration:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/cyber-monday-2014-live-deals-4725177

http://www.hotukdeals.com/cyber-monday

http://money.aol.co.uk/2014/11/29/revealed-the-best-cyber-monday-deals/

And while you’re at it, pay with Paypal for your chance to win up to £1000.  With 5 winners a week it makes you feel like you might even have a slim chance:

https://www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/winchristmas

And don’t panic if you don’t get all your festive shopping sorted in one fell swoop.  I’m sure Terrific Tuesday (I’m working on the name!) will bring its own tempting treats.  Happy shopping

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We Brits are suckers for an American trend. Halloween, tooth whitening, childhood obesity – where America treads, the UK is usually not too far behind…forming an orderly queue of course.

Black Friday is yet another US-lead initiative that has wormed its way into our national consciousness. Given its intrinsic link to Thanksgiving, you’d think this would be one Americanism we’d be happy to ignore, but it would appear we are (once again) powerless to resist.

Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November. The following day has become designated Black Friday. With a moniker originally coined by the Philadelphia police department in the 1950s, Black Friday was so called because of the chaos that engulfed the city as shoppers, fuelled by surfeits of turkey and cranberry sauce, flocked to the high street sales to commence Christmas shopping.

Over the years, the meaning of Black Friday has changed, with it now being heralded as the first day of the year that retailers start making money, therefore propelling them from the red to the black.

Black Friday had no relevance in the UK until 2010.  Until then, the nearest retail phenomenon we had was the good old Boxing Day sales. Multinational retailers were the first to introduce the concept on this side of the Atlantic. Most notable of these was Amazon, who introduced Black Friday discounts four years ago. Last year saw Black Friday reach critical mass in the UK, breaking the previous record for a single day’s online trade.

Initially, the UK’s adaptation of Black Friday was very much a digital event; a key impetus in the retail shift from the bricks and mortar of old to the new, infinitely more convenient digital shopping experience.

Last year, however, things started to change.  Wallmart-owned Asda ran a series of flash promotions, with ‘pinch me – I must be dreaming’ discounts that propelled frenzied customers into their stores. The result was akin to the carnage synonymous with America’s Black Friday – people queuing in the early hours and rampaging for bargains. Asda sold a month’s worth of TVs in just 45 minutes and 16k tablets in an hour.

So what does that mean for us this year then?  Well, analysts are predicting that 28th November 2014 will be the biggest online shopping day in UK history, EVER. It is also likely to be much more of a bricks and mortar event too.  Asda’s success last year made the other supermarkets sit up and take note…and want a bit of that frenetic footfall for themselves.

Am I the only one that feels a bit uneasy about this new shift in retail behaviour though?  To me, this feels like a slippery slope. Consumers become conditioned to expect heavy discounting, the level of which is only achievable by the giant monoliths of retail. It is only the supermarkets and multi-national retailers, like Amazon, that have low enough buy prices and broad enough stock ranges to accommodate this loss-leading approach. The independents, once again, are priced out of the market, knowingly undersold, in a supersized world where bigger is always best.

And what about the stalwart of UK retail heritage – the Boxing Day sale? Can it compete with the brasher, younger, all-American rival?  Only time will tell, but I’m thinking our British penchant for the under-dog will be quickly discarded in favour of an iPad for fifty quid!