Monday, 23 November 2009

Binge Drinking Britain this Christmas

So alright, even I am getting a bit Christmassy. Tis the season to be jolly, buy presents – oh and drink a lot. Binge drinking Britain will be at his height. A frenzy of office parties and boozy afternoons with your clients and contacts. We won’t care that alcohol is ruining the nation’s health and is at the source of a large amount of anti social behaviour. We will just be enjoying ourselves!

Will we heed the government warnings to drink responsibly? What does that mean?

“All future Scotch Whisky adverts and printed point of sale materials are to carry a responsible drinking message” as reported in Marketing Week on Friday 20th This is the sort of industry initiative that we see regularly. It supposed to make us have some constraint in our drinking. Do they really believe this will have any effect?

Responsible drinking is the industry buzzword. Bacardi also use it on their web site. Note the exclamation mark after “Drink Responsibly!”. It’s as if Bacardi don’t even believe it themselves. And why would they? Slapping “danger” messages all over alcohol or cigarettes has never influenced anybody.

So how could we communicate a bit of restraint differently?

The industry and the government could start by realising that as consumers we are completely blind to the obvious messages on every bottle and web site. “Drink in moderation”, “Drink aware”.

I am not suggesting that there is a quick fix solution to Britain’s deep rooted social problems but we could start realising that customers have a brain and we could start thinking what alcohol customers want and need to help themselves make better decisions.

Consumer Insight 1

A lot of consumers don’t actually realise how much they are drinking.

Wouldn’t it be far more practical and helpful to offer details of the units in a drink? 1 large glass of wine, which is now the norm in many bars and pubs is 250ml. For an average strengthened wine at 12% alcohol, that is 3 units . A lot of people would be surprised at that. I am convinced a large % of people have no idea they are consuming so much alcohol in one go. In one night you could easily consume 9 units out of the 14 recommended for women per week.

Could pubs display more of this kind of practical info rather than a “drink responsibly” generic poster? Could the spirits manufactures replace their “drink aware” statements on POS and bottles with something that indicates how many units we are consuming when we pour?

Consumer Insight 2

Alcohol drinking is a social phenomenon. Quite often we drink with friends at regular moments in the week. A bit like smoking, it is a bit of a habit.

What about a bit more industry product initiatives such as more low alcohol products? Low alcohol wine or alcopops would be a great way to cut down. I know a few people who would be interested but I never see these products anywhere if they even exist. Ask for a low alcohol beer and the landlord looks at you a bit sadly and that is presuming he stocks any.

As I said I certainly don’t have all the solutions, but it would be great to see those involved in the alcohol industry thinking in a more innovative way that doesn’t treat customers like non-thinking robots.

Monday, 16 November 2009

10 trends for retailing on the web

I am loving the report just come out Verdict Consulting for Web Loyalty on etailing for the future. There are 10 trends predicting and a lot of them talk about things close to my own heart.. Have Verdict been reading my blog? Here is a brief synopsis of what they are:

1. Growth will be more difficult
Since 2004 growth rates for internet retailing have been in the twenties even rising 35% year on year but this kind of rapid growth has now slowed largely due to the recession and more careful shopping, Verdict are predicting nevertheless a significant growth of 13.3% during 2009. Verdict recommends that etailers need to be more strategic in maximising online revenue.

My Comment
The slowdown means companies could well get more out of concentrating on converting customers rather than fighting for the attention of more new customers.

2. The recession has impacted on line
Verdict estimate that £1.6 bn of revenue has been lost due to the recession. It is thought that customers have moved towards a clear low price and value message and that a critical lesson for the online channel will be to add value and persuade customers to trade up in what they buy.

My Comment
We mustn’t however confuse low cost with value. Customers want to pay the right price but this may not be the lowest price. Consumer still take brand and service into consideration. People are still buying during a recession but they often want their purchases for a better price. It is up to companies to demonstrate the value of their products.

3. Acquiring new customers will be tougher
A key driver of the rapid growth in online retail appears to have been simply the numbers of new online shoppers, in other words the movement from offline to online. However this trend will also inevitably slow in the next few years which means that online retailers will need to work harder to find their growth in other ways. Verdict advise switching more marketing budget to maintaining existing customers and driving repeat business.

My Comment
Couldn’t agree more!

4. There will be more mouths to feed
Another challenge is that the online retail space is now far more crowded than ever before. This, in short, means consumers now have a great deal of online choice. More confident consumers, a greater choice of online retailers, and higher price sensitivity of shoppers means that the average number of websites visited by consumers has increased markedly. Verdict advise deep knowledge of your competitors’ online offerings coupled with sophisticated testing of different customer acquisition strategies to stay ahead of the market.

My Comment

Companies will really need to differentiate themselves and be improving their customer experience constantly to stay ahead of the game. Verdict think that consumers are more willing to try brands that they haven’t heard of, I don’t think this is necessarily true for bigger purchases. In any case less known brands will need to offer lots reassurance on their sites to give consumer the confidence to purchase.

5. Expectations will rise

It will become increasingly difficult to service online shoppers in the coming years. They are becoming more demanding and their expectations are escalating, which means that going forward retailers will have to work much harder to meet their needs.

My Comment
This is so important and yet so many companies fail to spend enough time telling customer why they should shop with them. Another great point.

6. Loyalty can be increased
The ease at which customers can flit from website to website and compare products means that loyalty in online retailing is significantly lower than in store retailing. That said, there remain many opportunities for retailers to foster online loyalty across range, price, convenience and service functions. Verdict recommend a combination of one-off tactical deals to excite the customer, combined with long-term strategic programmes with extra value benefits to lock in customers.

My Comment
What’s more, if your customer experience is good, purchasers will tell their friends all about you as well as coming back to you.

7. Conversion will be key
Another major challenge facing online retailers is how to boost conversion –the proportion of site visitors who actually buy something. Further ways in which to boost conversion often surround making it easier for customers to check out and make a purchase. Rapid check out functionality, and offering cheap, reliable and quick delivery and return procedures also help here. Verdict also recommend personalisation.

My Comment
Back to ROVER. Reception (greeting), options (that are personalised – even better), value for money, efficiency and reassurance. Enough said.

8. Basket abandonment is here to stay
This is when a customer places products in to their virtual basket but does not go on to complete the transaction. We estimate over £2bn of potential sales are lost every year due to abandoned baskets; a figure which is likely to grow slightly over the next few years. Providing clear, accurate and detailed information on products, prices and additional charges is a key way to reduce basket abandonment.

My Comment
Quite often it is the sum of a few online difficulties that means customers abandon the shop. Usability studies can help to iron these out. Keeping the customer in control of their purchase at all times is also key.

9. Customers will be channel blind
Traditionally there have been three standout ways in which people buy goods. These are in store, via a catalogue or online. Customers generally purchase goods through a single channel from beginning to end, though on occasion through a combination of two channels for example a customer researching the product online before going into store to purchase it. However, going forward not only are there more channels through which products can be bought, but also the lines between the channels are blurring. The buying process may well move through three or four separate channels from conception to creation. For example, a shopper might choose their shopping on their mobile phone/PDA, order it online and collect in store. Others might use an affiliate site as a start point which then directs them to a retail site for further information and the product might be bought in store.

My Comment
And this is exactly why your customer experience needs to be consistent across all channels. Love it.

10. It’s more than about selling
Retailers invest significant amounts of money in order to attract visitors to their websites so that customers will spend money with them. However, these customers can also generate revenue in the form of monetisation. This involves allowing third parties to pitch their offers to a retailer’s web traffic.

My Comment
The business should be careful that the offers make sense to their consumers and add to their brand, not detract from it. If you are in luxury goods, having an Aldi offer will not help your brand image but having a test drive offer of the new Audi might enhance your brand.

Monday, 9 November 2009

15 years of Eurostar

Can it really be 15 years since the French joined the British by train thanks to Eurostar? The butt of many jokes before it was launched and saddled by enormous debt, it could have been a huge disaster. Instead, it is an exciting and efficient method of transport that allows its customers to get into the heart of 4 major city centres in the time it takes you to get into the Heathrow car park.

When it was launched in November 1994, the age of cheap air travel was arriving with Ryanir already carrying 1.6 million passengers a year. London to Paris is a mere 40 minute flight so why take the train?

It’s just a far better customer experience all round.

1) Leave right from the heart of Paris or London. Paris’ leading airport, Roissy is a good 45 minute train journey from the centre of Paris and is vying for the crown of “most depressing airport in the world”

2) Check in only 20 minutes before

3) Keep your bags with you and not have them thrown around by a grumpy air baggage handler

4) No deep vein thrombosis or earache - have a walk down the train to stretch your legs and definitely more leg room than easyjet or ryanair.

To celebrate its 15 years, Eurostar are planning a new press, radio, outdoor and digital campaign by Fallon to encourage viewers to visit their social media site

It seems like Eurostar are emphasising the ease of travel and promoting shorter trips if not day trips. One execution will read ‘Paris for an anniversary gift; Paris because it's Saturday'.

All good stuff, it is just a shame that their booking system is still so clunky I tried to book a ticket once and gave up. Once you have chosen a couple of tickets, you have to start again if you want an earlier or later train and the site makes it difficult to see the cheapest return options. When I clicked on “Continue booking” as a guest , there was a system error. The time before that the whole booking engine was down.

In conclusion, it really is a great actual customer experience once you are at the station and is so efficient that I even have a friend who lives in Peterborough and commutes to Paris to work. What’s more, the trains even run when the French transport workers are on strike.

However, the online customer experience needs a lot more TLC.

Hope the people from Eurostar sort that out before they spend millions on a swish advertising campaign and then lose a signficant % through poor usability. Can anyone afford that in these hard times?