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Could changes in product listing rules hamper sales this Christmas?

Did you know that your products might not be displaying properly on shopping and price comparison websites? Chances are, probably you didn’t know but this is because there are some new requirements in place that are now causing a storm for retailers.

Millions of shoppers will use price comparison websites, Google shopping and shopping-related Apps every day as a quick and efficient way of buying products as the best price possible. So make sure that you are not missing out on your opportunity to sell this Christmas period and make sure that you are aware of the rules around listings!

Due to some strict requirements which have been recently brought in to help make shopping more clearer and easier for the customer to understand, many of these price comparison sites are rejecting some listings by retailers and when it comes to the raw product data which is submitted to the various sites, many retailers may be totally unaware that their listings are not appearing properly, or in some cases, have been rejected completely.

This could deal a devastating blow to retailers and could cost them critical sales in the run up to Christmas, and indeed afterwards for the savvy shopper wanting to enjoy the January sales.

Personally, I would urge retailers to be totally aware of all the changes to the way Google Shopping and other sites accept their product feeds so that retailers are much more stringent in ensuring they submit data in the right format as specified by each individual site.

Any retailers who may be concerned about the quality of their listings to seek advice and help sooner rather than later, to ensure they don’t risk further sales.

Christmas is a critical time of year for many retailers and no one can afford to rest on their laurels and put off dealing with any issues which may negatively impact sales performance. Automated product feed solutions can be implemented quickly and can start making a radically improvement to product visibility in just a matter of days.

Brand Santa by @TheAgencyUK

Ahead of the Christmas season our planning and creative teams seem to have spent a little too much time thinking about Brand Santa. Here’s their thinking, straight off the white board.

Brief Santa. Develop a symbol that transcends social class, geography and time. As a character he should embody tradition, as a brand he should be fuelled by sentiment. As a celebrity he should enjoy freedom from the press. And as an icon, other brands should want to associate themselves with him.

So is it even possible to answer such a brief today and create brand Santa? Would he need to be endorsed by Disney before gaining popular appeal? How could he ever evoke the same feelings in people’s hearts and minds? What would be his brand proposition?

We’d probably have to start with research and take Concept Santa along to a few focus groups. Parents would no doubt be the first stumbling block. An overweight elderly man breaking and entering childrens’ bedrooms is a hard sell at the best of times.

But assuming we worked that out with a compelling and moral proposition. We know our target audience, we know our mums and dads. We know bribery for good behaviour is sure to be a winning feature and benefit.

It’s probably around this time that the issue of budget should be discussed. Is Santa not for profit? Product brand association is probably essential and most likely inevitable. In the jolly season it’s all about cut through.

A facebook page, twitter account and general social media groundswell is an easy sell, after all look at the Queen, with more than 300 thousand followers?

Advertising, sponsorship, PR, and a fully integrated channel plan. Creatively, he is the big idea, so perhaps a few Wikipedia entries to help form his past?

Not convinced? Well today he would be a pretty hard concept to bring to life, and an even harder one to sell. Testament to the generations of family effort and commercial investment that has gone in to shaping him. Put a brief out to launch a middle aged fat man that the world will love, and most agencies would run a mile. But then again we did get Homer Simpson.

Did you leverage Cyber Monday to entice customers back into store?

Cyber Monday might only come around once a year, but I wonder how many actually took steps to ensure that the benefits of the day are felt by the business all year around?

As technology and mobile become more common place in the offline retail experience, I believe that many could be missing a trick by failing to encourage those shopping online to visit the bricks and mortar stores too.

Will mobile phone providers take the leap to becoming virtual banks?

You only have to scan the news of late to see reports that consumers are increasingly becoming more comfortable making higher value purchases via their mobile phone. I believe this trend means there are going to be some rapid developments in the mobile marketplace in 2012, which could see mobile providers potentially offering ‘virtual banks services where consumer purchases via mobile are simply added to their phone bill.

You only have to spend a brief moment researching this sector to gain a feel for the pace of change occuring when it comes to Mobile Commerce. Research suggests that 87% of people have changed their shopping habits since the start of the recession. Further reports reveal that 79% of the on-the-go audience is comfortable making purchases on their mobile devices, such as smart phones or tablets and A YouGov survey of shoppers on the high street found 47% of shoppers aged 18-24 and 33% of shoppers aged 35-44 said they would shop more at a store if they could use a mobile device.

Combine these statistics with a growing demand for a seamless customer experience, regardless of what channel is used to purchase, I believe that rapid developments in the delivery of m-commerce are inevitable if retailers are going to tap into this ‘mobile ready’ market and adopt mobile as a viable mainstream sales channel.

Retailers are still getting the hang of the m-commerce approach, but is there still a way to go? I think so…

It is clear that consumers have a real desire to use their mobile but our discussions with retailers have uncovered mixed views with regards to their adoption of mobile payments. Many online retailers currently use a service from the banks known as 3D Secure, providing a higher level of protection from fraudulent payments, however this service is not supported at present when paying via a mobile application. This is an area of concern for retailers and something which will needed addressing before mobile can really become integrated in the sales strategy.

I believe mobile payment will increasingly gain in popularity and use, but the big question is will it continue in its present guise or will mobile payments simply be added to the consumer’s mobile phone bill?

It will be interesting to see whether mobile phone providers take this step towards becoming ‘virtual banks’. It’s certainly viable in my opinion.

Next sales growth is commendable, but are analysts overlooking the cross-channel eco-system?

I was interested to read a story today on Retail Week regarding a strong third quarter performance from Next’s Directory business and particularly, how it has compensated for weak store sales.

What is clear is that Next truly understand the evolution in consumer shopping trends and this is evidenced by their outstanding performance.

Next Directory sales climbed 16.9% in the period to October 29, bringing the year-to-date advance to 15.8% However, in my opinion, the analysts do not seem to have made the transition to the cross-channel eco system.

I strongly believe that sales performance can no longer be measured in silos by channel and have to be viewed collectively.
Consumer spend must now be viewed as a collective with the interdependencies between channels recognised. Next have continued to deliver a customer focused cross-channel initiative and as a direct result customers may be using other sales channels, but sales are still increasing and the consumer is getting the consistent level of service they want.

After all, a true mark of customer satisfaction is the sales you generate as a result.

This is why we insist on conducting multi-channel reviews with our customers, because what matters most, is not how many different channels your customers can buy from, but that they get the service they want, whichever way they choose to buy from you.

If as part of your multi-channel strategy, you are exploring the impact of mobile, be sure to look out for my next blog, as I’ll be discussing some potentially exciting developments in this space!

Death of the Mall by @TheAgencyUK

The list, the rush, the panic shoving and buying, the last minute promotions all make up the Christmas shopping experience most of us have grown up with. In recent times, a shortage of highly prized Christmas toys has crystallised the power of product placement. For most high street retailers, they call this the exciting shopping experience that we all seek. The reason why high street shopping will always win over online commerce.

But I’m not so sure. The past few years has seen a decline in footfall, the crowds adorning the streets have dispersed, even the good will charity contributions from passing shoppers that many rely on have all but disappeared. It’s easy to say the recession has bitten, the economy is to blame, but there seems to be fewer behavioural shopping trends amidst the crunch to indicate that the crowds will ever return to the streets in the same way again.

Amazon have predicted that Monday 5th December will be Cyber Monday, the single biggest online shopping day before Christmas, and one that could be set to dwarf the high street numbers. Christmas food shopping is increasingly being done online, in fact online grocery sales are predicted to double by 2016, so will this leave our supermarkets empty? Even online retail fraud has dropped by 8% this year, despite the increase in online shoppers, making it safer than ever to shop online.

With busy and frantic lives, demanding jobs, less time to see friends but more time to stay in touch via Facebook, we have to ask the question do people really want to add to their anxiety at Christmas or at any other time of year for that matter? Isn’t high street shopping just a hassle? Isn’t browsing the shops fun but buying online simply easier?

Despite what the high street retailers tell us, are we fed up with the traditional shopping experience? I wonder if it’s actually declining because people don’t actually enjoy it quite as much as retailers like to think we do?

Is China the answer to our weak economy?

Western economies are performing so poorly that many of the UK’s traditionally well regarded creative businesses are feeling compelled to look east.

Smart businesses identified the opportunity a long time ago, but almost on a daily basis, we see UK creative and media businesses ask the China question; where do I start?

Should retailers cut out the clutter and just keep it simple?

Last week was Stress Free Shopping Week and this got me thinking about the shopping and buying process for the consumer.

At the present time, many retailers are focusing on offering customers the opportunity to buy across multiple channels, such as instore, online, via mobile apps, perhaps even on Facebook and Twitter, but is there a problem with this? Is there too much choice for the consumer?

Possibly.

What’s the big idea?

Over the last few months I’ve noticed a considerable amount of debate regarding the value of the idea. How does it exist when consumers devour messages from so many different channels? Do we need an idea these days or should we just be pushing message?

People like to hook into things. They remember information that they can connect with on an emotional and rational basis. The fact is we’re becoming far more resistant to communication. We’re more discerning with regard to what we filter out. And equally we’re also more proactive in the way we find out about brands, from liking a brand on Facebook to actively searching out information about products and services online.

Maximise your company’s presence outside of the event hall

Louise Walters, CEO of exhibition stand design company Priority Exhibitions, talks through five key ways she advises clients on how to really get the most from their exhibition stands to promote themselves at exhibitions and conferences.

Taking part in exhibitions and conferences is always a great way for companies to market themselves. But as an exhibition stand designer and manufacturer, we see lots of companies at events just going through the motions and not making the most of all the marketing opportunities around a conference or event.