Seven tips for retailers wanting to survive a tough spring

11 tips for surviving a tough Q1

It's not just the athletes in Sochi who are suffering a chilly time of it; worldwide retail's undergoing a serious cold snap following icy sales and frosty forecasts. So, what are you going to do to survive what's set to be a pretty brutal Q1?

Well, as the St. Bernard dogs of retail, we've pulled together seven easy-to-implement tips and strategies to keep the wolves from your door and the icicles off your nose. All of these activities can be implemented within weeks, not months, and if you follow our advice we'll guarantee you a positive outcome.

There. That's better already, isn't it?

1. Experiment, experiment, experiment

Same-old-same-old just doesn't cut it anymore. Just look at the retailers who had a bad Christmas this year - they all relied on tedious old tactics like generic across-the-board discounting thinking that what worked in the past would work in the present. The ones who thrived (John Lewis, Next, Ted Baker, Ryman) were the ones who didn't even discount at all but, instead, tried new, engaging tactics to capture the public's imagination. The trick is not to spend months and months over-thinking your experimetns but just to start doing and learning_. _As Dell's


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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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Going, going, gone. What's going to happen to retail when the sales are over?

Sale Ends Today

Oh, Banksy. Always bang on the money with your witty observations (although - ironic art fact! - this oil on canvas swipe at consumerism didn't actually sell when Sotheby's tried to auction it in 2008). We are totally obsessed with sales, which is why it comes as no surprise that everyone from Buckingham Palace to the 99p Store chain is knocking off money quicker than the late Ronnie Biggs (incidentally, how do 99p Stores have sales?!).

Unsurprisingly, that's led to a slightly busier high street than usual (though not everywhere, it seems), but let's not kid ourselves here: people aren't shopping because the recession's over and they're merrily splashing the cash. They're stockpiling in preparation for the moment the sales end, making sure they have everything they need before that 80% off is actually off.

At which point, everything's likely to get rather bleak.

Traditionally, the post-sales period between leading up to Easter has been retail's time to experiment: click-and-collect, loyalty cards, even the world's first ever online store (1992's Book Stacks Unlimited) all came into being during Februaries past (as did the mobile internet and Facebook, incidentally). So now's definitely the time to plan something fresh and innovative.

The


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