Data: digital retail's top three priorities for 2014

 Digital Retail Priorities 2014

Following a mixed Christmas - overall gloom leavened by the occasional boom - 2014 is shaping up to be a year of radical change for the digital retail industry. More so than ever, those who can't adapt won't survive the lean Q1 months ahead, so what changes lie in-store now that the tinsel's down and the profit warnings are looming?

We surveyed over 200 Heads of eCommerce and Heads of Social from across Europe and the United States to gauge their top strategic priorities for 2014. What changes will they be making? How will they be spending their budgets? What are their goals for the year ahead? Below are their top three responses: smarter promotions, innovative customer acquisition and generating real ROI from social. But, first, here are a few surprises from the survey.

  • Is this the end for old social? In previous years, we’d have expected to see lots of digital retailers and marketers focusing on growing their social audiences by adding 'Likes' and followers. But our survey indicated that only 4% of respondents regarded this as critical goal for the coming year, with the emphasis shifting towards monetisation of that audience instead (see below).

  • Money talks. Two


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Sorry, Hubspot. Social media is NOTHING like sex.

Social Media Is Nothing Like Sex

I just stumbled upon an old blog post from the fine ladies and gentlemen at Hubspot, trying to convince me that Social Media Is A Lot Like Sex.

It's not. And here's 10 reasons why...

  • Social media is all about doing it in public.

  • 57% of marketers have acquired customers via blogging. Fewer than 52% of them have acquired customers via sex. Possibly significantly fewer.

  • It's okay to charge for social media.

  • And it's fine to tweet your siblings.

  • Almost eight new people come onto the internet every second. (This one doesn't really work, but it made us snigger.)

  • Social media spreads the word. Sex just spreads cooties.

  • The average UK user spends over 26 minutes on Facebook every day. If there's an equivalent stat for sex then no wonder our economy's in a mess.

  • The average Twitter user has 27 followers, but most of the ones who follow @KimKardashian have zero sexual partners.

  • 42% of employers say no to any use of social media in the workplace. Yeah, even at the office Christmas party. Prudes.

  • My wife enjoys social media.


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Social in 2014 is just like the web in 1996

If social media existed in the '90s

Take a look at your favourite brand's Facebook page. It's pretty mature, isn't it? It's well managed, it's active, those guys really know what they're doing. And it's not just Facebook - look at the way businesses use Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest and a million other tools. Social has definitely come of age.

And then step back and put all this into context. It might seem like we've reached an end-point, like we've gone as far as we possibly can but, in truth, we've only just begun to scratch the surface of social's potential. How do we know that? Because it's happened before - with the birth of e-commerce.

Back in the early to mid '90s, the only corporates who saw a business use for the web were the marketing guys. Excited by this dynamic new platform, they were the ones who established websites for their brands. But the new tech didn't automatically deliver a new way of thinking and, consequently, these websites were little more than online versions of the print brochures and corporate resources they were already producing, coupled with some touchy-feely fun for the customers.

ASDA's website in 1996 offered everything from jobs and recipes to java games to entertain their customers. The one thing it didn't offer, though, was the ability to buy things. The UK supermark ASDA's website in 1996 offered everything from jobs and recipes to java games to entertain their customers. The one thing it didn't offer, though, was the ability to buy things.

Meanwhile, pioneers like Pegasus (who set up the world's first online travel agency, and now power giants like Ebookers, Orbitz, Lastminute and Hotwire), eBay and Amazon had identified an infinitely greater potential for the web - the ability to sell direct to customers, any time day or night, anywhere in the world, disintermediating traditional retail, shaving overheads to a bare minimum, reinventing shopping forever. These pioneers invented a whole new channel - e-commerce - and the reward for their innovation was 20+ years of dominance. Brands and traditional retailers are still paying the price for their tardiness back in the '90s, and you only have to look at what's recently happened to the likes of HMV and Jessops to see how costly that price has been.

The same thing will emphatically happen with social. We're still in the mid '90s when it comes to how brands interact with their customers via social. It's a toe in the water - something for marketers to play with. Just like the brochure sites of old, corporate social outposts collate information for their customers, they engage them with fun distractions (competitions, polls, Pinterest boards, pictures of fluffy kittens to share), they stick a flag in the sand for their brands.

But the future will only arrive when social expands beyond the social media we're playing with now, or even the social media marketing people assume is cutting edge. The inevitable, essential future is Social Commerce - shopping where we socialise, buying things with our friends, accessing offers and exclusives via viral networks, influencing the price and nature of products with our collective, social voice.

The question, though, is whether brands and retailers will make the same fatal mistake they made 20 years ago and allow someone else to corner the market before they can get so much as a foot in the door. There's still time to act, but the next six months are going to be fascinating to watch.


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80% of January Sales are over by January!

80% Of January Sales Are Over By January!

Five social strategies for maximising your January Sale

With January sales starting earlier and earlier, most have run out of steam by the time January even begins.

‘New Products Added!’ claims don’t work and the high street is already awash with ‘70% off messages’, so how are you going to ensure your campaign gets long-lasting cut through?

Here are our tips for using Social-Ccommerce to launch and maximise the potential of your January Sale:

1. Get your social audience involved early. As we approach the tail end of December use Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to ask your audience what they want to see in your sales. Make them feel like they’re curating the campaign.

2. Sometimes less is more. It’s tempting to launch all your offers on day one, but hold some back. Treat them as mini-marketing hand grenades and launch them regularly throughout the duration of the campaign.

3. Make some of your offers exclusive to your social audience. Low-volume, so it feels exclusive, and high-discount will create buzz and excitement. Launch them mid-way through the January Sales and you’ll get people talking about your campaign again.

4. Get shoppers in the first 2-weeks of


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Flash in the pan: why the private sales fad crashed and burned

Flash in the pan: why the private sales fad crashed and burned

Oh, ye of little truth. The co-founder of the private sales site vente-privee, Ilan Benhaim, recently told a crowded conference hall that his site added 10k users per day last year yet, rather surprisingly, doesn't pay for traffic. Apparently, it's all word of mouth in the private sales world. It's all buzz and peer-to-peer and social. Except, clearly, it isn't.

Unless, of course, someone else paid for this ad...

Google advert for vente-privee

I'm not surprised that vente-privee advertises, but we are a little surprised that Mr Benhaim felt the need to bend the truth like that. There's no way a site like vente-privee could possibly sustain itself without calling in the keyword cavalry. Why? Because private sales / members'-only sales / secret sales / flash sales (call 'em what you will, they're all the same thing) are inherently un-social, for these three reasons:

1. For your eyes only?

There's a common ruse when it comes to private sale e-stores. It's expressed differently from site to site but, basically, it translates roughly along these hoary old lines: "Our prizes are so crrRRRazy, our suppliers will only let us show them to our members." Now, admittedly, I had an extra portion of cynicism with our cornflakes this morning,


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