Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals

Benjamin Shalom the entrepreneur behind Ultimate Boxxer


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Young Entrepreneurs – Benjamin Shalom

So in the second of my posts acknowledging young entrepreneurs (the first being Social Chain’s Steven Bartlett) I would like to showcase Benjamin Shalom.

Benjamin Shalom the entrepreneur behind Ultimate Boxxer

Benjamin Shalom the entrepreneur behind Ultimate Boxxer

Benjamin first came to my attention a couple of years back, when I was still working in Manchester, but with N Brown. He randomly contacted me on LinkedIn asking for advice.  I met him a couple of times and it was clear  that he clearly has his head screwed on.

Benjamin had toyed with a few career paths, having been in law firms and even setting  up his own fastfood delivery service. He obviously has a passion for  live events and a love for boxing. The two simply collided to create Ultimate Boxxer, which Benjamin set  up and still runs.

Whilst I did offer some early guidance and help (or at least I hope I did), including on the branding and concept, very little input was needed.  Benjamin’s passion, determination and ability to get things done was actually inspiring to me. There were things he didn’t know, but that didn’t matter. He would source the answers and make it happen.  An attribute sadly lacking in many people.

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In the action at Ultimate Boxxer II

Since those early days, Ultimate Boxxer has grown and there are many events planned this year and without doubt in to next. He has secured two broadcasting deals with the current one a large deal with  BT Sports.  All this while creating a compelling format for boxing that T20 did for cricket. Fast action, entertainment, knock outs and a big cash  prizes.

Watch out for Benjamin Shalom and of course make sure you take in some Ultimate Boxxer, the man and the format are winners.

Follow Benjamin Shalom on LinkedIn

Love to hear your comments and views by replying here. If there are any entrepreneurs under 30 you think  I should cover, please let me know.

Eye catching facia on RIPNDIP pop-up


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The Future of the High Street

There is much debate over the demise of the High Street, with the Internet seemingly  being single handedly being responsible for the demise. In this piece I will explore whether this is the case and what we can do to try and make retail an art, like it used to  be.

Tescopoly

It was over a decade ago when Andrew Simms released his then controversial business book Tescopoly. The author told the story about how supermarkets bought up land on the edge of towns and in subarban areas and essentially stockpiled them. They then moved to  buying units in town.  Whilst single handidly changing the way people shopped by providing all  the retail services that was once the provision of the local high street. We are talking, butchers, bakers and even key cutters.

Tescopoly shows how retail changed thanks to Supermarkets

The book also explores how Tesco and the other supermarkets used their buying power to “convince” farmers and other producers to supply them and their extensive supply chains as opposed to smaller more local purveyors.

Whilst the book goes deeper, including profiting from poverty, it does show how supermarkets created waves of ghost towns or even worse as Simms states it Clone  Towns.

But why is this relevant? Well the demise of the high street and the local retailer was on its way long before the internet, seemingly took charge. In fact, a lot of the retailers that are claiming they are being hit by the internet are the exact same retailers that rose with the advent of clone towns. The same shops appearing on every high street, with no regionalisation to reflect the local area.

So it could be argued, that actually the current wave of retail issues is purely cyclical and the internet has just been the vehicle to drive the change.

Facing  the music

A while back when I ran a music  website,  I explored why the landscape of music and music consumption had changed. It could be argued a similar pattern emerged in music  with people embracing new hard formats to listen to music and moving on with the times in to eventually sales dropping dramatically and streaming becoming  the new norm.

All of that is true and technology did drive change, largely thanks  to  Apple  in the  early  days and more latterly Spotify and  the like, originally driven by platforms such  as Napster.  However, similar to what was discussed in the previous section, the selling of music went through a similar pattern.

When I was younger  I used to DJ  back in  Bristol and  the West Country, some times venturing to London or Birmingham.  However, this was so long ago, I didn’t have a laptop and software to create and mix playlists for me, I used those black bits of plastic on a turntable.

I used to go to Replay Records in Bristol, under a  subway, right by the old bus station.  It  was close enough to Broadmead shopping centre but far enough away for it to be a  genuine experience.  They had decks in the shop where you could mix and listen to the tunes you had bought.

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Ourprice Records the  turning point for indie record shops

As I was in to Hip  Hop this  was my place.  However the city was littered with  local  record shops.  Old  Market had shops that sold rock and more indie music. Park street was home to shops with  dance  music, in short they were everywhere.

Whilst the digital age definitely changed the music  landscape without a shadow  of doubt, it was originally altered by big corporates who took prime spots in shopping centres and provided just enough music  outside the core mainstream,  to make people feel they weren’t missing anything.

First HMV.  Then came Our Price and then Virgin took over Our Price.   The whole music  retail scene was being eaten up. Ring any bells?  These retailers are pretty much no more, with HMV bemoaning their fortunes, due to the internet. However, poor management in their history meant they simply didn’t keep up. Remember though, they  were originally responsible for hundreds of smaller independent record shops closing.

A similar tale  to what is currently happening on the high street.

So before we cry foul that the internet is ruining our high street, lets listen to  the lessons retail have provided us in the past and understand, the potentially cyclical pattern. We also need to recognise that the internet has provided many customer benefits/ Benefits that bricks and mortar retailers have in the main, failed to embrace or have been too slow to adapt.

Another great example is ToysRUs in the UK. Setting up huge out of town toy sheds. At first they won the nations hearts by allowing kids to experience play. As they matured every inch was allocated for selling and the experience for kids was removed, leaving  just big warehouses. They also failed to adapt for the  digital age, allowing Amazon to swallow their share under their noses. ToysRUs went from stealing the toy shop from the high street by being bigger and cheaper, to losing their place, by somebody bigger and  cheaper.

Convenience

Whether we like it or not, as a nation, we are more time poor than ever.  With this in mind, no wonder convenience is a massive factor in helping  shape our shopping habits.   What internet retailers have been great at, is trying to ensure we can not only buy things from their online stores that may not be readily  available from the high street, but larger online retailers have been obsessing over convenience.  Next day delivery. Order tracking. Pick a time slot for delivery. Same day delivery.

Even online retailers that haven’t obsessed over customer service have been effected, proving its not all plain sailing. Look at the different fortunes that somebody like, my former employers, boohoo had over some of its competitors.  When I was at boohoo, we would try to find ways our delivery cut off time could be extended. We would look at ways we could cut the cloth differently with couriers to make it cheaper for our customers.  Whereas if you look at somebody like Maplin who provided quite specialised equipment, but  failed to invest in service, its UX  or an eCommerce application that really added anything to its standing as a multi-channel operator, showing that a digital presence isn’t the be all and end all.

As our lives change and the world moves on, we need convenience. The beauty of the way the internet and online retailing has developed is that it can deliver this. Not just from a delivery aspect but also from a UX perspective. Hours of research and testing is  spent on improving customer journeys on retail websites. Yes some of that is for pure commercial reasons, however it also aids us as customers.

Improved technology means the imagery that is seen on sites and the quality of video has increased astronomically and again,  retailers that don’t adapt to this need for high  quality content, could be the next victims of the retail cycles.

Its all about  science

Whilst there are many experts in customer experience. Jobs  exist now that were even conceived a couple of decades back, a lot is down to the reams of data processed by big machines. Testing  platforms that can optimise on the move. Of course all supplemented by hugely intelligent data scientists and analysts that provide information to marketers and eCommerce professionals alike.

The early and perhaps, still, the best proponents of this are Amazon.  The digital retail goliath grew from selling books online to the huge retailer, broadcaster and hardware company you know today. This all started from neat algorithms that identified trends and helped to improve customer experiences online, but all based on speed and convenience.  As Amazon develops every sector it is unusual for them to spend much on  trying to make sticky content, they are effectively the Google of retail.  All built on strong data driven decisions that  power the entire existence of the organisation.

Going  back to convenience. Amazon realised a long time ago, that providing a great  delivery proposition could engender loyalty.  It worked and Amazon Prime is one of the most successful  subscription services today. Not only do they generally (unless you  live in rural Bedford) provide fast and accurate delivery, they have convinced you to pay upfront for the privilege. Yes they make you pay up front a quite healthy sum for deliveries you may make in the future. Genius. Remember, with all their data modelling,  they would have already worked out the numbers. Yes you  may order smaller and more frequently, but equally you are more likely to make more purchases to ensure you  “get  your money’s worth”

This commercial acumen and understanding of customer behaviour and value is  something that the majority of bricks and mortar retailers would only dream of. They all have the opportunity, but they have preferred not to invest to the level needed in their technology and spent the profits elsewhere.  This has come back to haunt them.

Retail isn’t dead

The simple truth of the matter is, retail isn’t dead. As with the comment of cyclical retail patterns, that  is the current trend. Brands such as Apple and  Nike are throwing up shops in key retail environments. However, rather than just putting up stores with shelves of their boxes, thy have  reimagined  what retail means. They  have looked at  their customer base and  created retail experiences that  will appeal to their  customers. There is that combination of customer and  experience again. The same terminology  that  eCommerce professionals use, but translated to physical retail.

The  successful retailers of today look  at their retail offerings as more than the confines of their four walls. They  also look beyond just the physical products that they  sell in the actual store.  They see their stores as experiential platforms and useful marketing and brand tools.

Basketball activation at Nike, The Grove in LA

Basketball activation at Nike, The Grove in LA

One of my favourite executions of Nike’s retail presence is at The Grove in LA.  The  store has had several experiential areas, that in theory allow the customer to try before they buy, but in all honesty, it provides that element of theatre thats needed. They used to have an immersive basketball simulator that challenged users in their b-ball skills. They  had a football (soccer) court where people could have a kick about and latterly, they have a  running machine  which expertly crafts for an individual to help aid their running.

All providing the theatre but  creating real customer value. Showing for certain that  retail isn’t dead, its just that businesses need to  catch  up.

Pop-ups

The fact that many  digital retailers are clamouring  for  a physical presence is further evidence that retail isn’t dead. The likes of  Amazon, boohoo, RIPNDIP  and adidas  with its launch of NMD in London all created  pop-up retail experiences. Brands like Amazon and Missguided are securing  slightly longer term placements.

Eye catching facia on RIPNDIP pop-up

Eye catching facia on RIPNDIP pop-up

The more successful of the  pop-up shops share a few commonalities. Perhaps the most  common is  creating an installation that will be  talked about and perhaps more importantly provide photo opportunities for content hungry  grammers.   Whether thats  with  a cool frontage, urban interiors or just some  cool  people that provide a crowd with  an interest point, again  something way  beyond the realms of  standard retail.

Government

Above all of this, even if the internet  isn’t damaging retail, or isn’t the complete cause, one thing is for  certain. If we want any  form of retail experience on our high   streets or in our town centres, local and central governments  need  to act.  Something needs  to  be done  to  encourage both shoppers and  retailers back  in to the spaces before  they are filled with  charity  shops or coffee shops.

The end  (is not) nigh

Hopefully this  piece has helped paint  a slightly  different  perspective on the current retail landscape. Its not all down to internet retailers. Retailers just need  to  get good again. Perhaps they key  is  also to stop relying on chains and  help  local shopkeepers get  back  to connecting and selling quality products to  their friends and neighbours.

The crux of  how  retail needs to  shape up, is surely by getting closer to the  customers again. Identifying  the customer wants and needs. Understanding  a customers desires and  what  will  attract somebody to visit your  store. Offer something  different and  dare I say it unique. It doesn’t have to  cost  the earth. Above all, embrace digital and make it a part of the customer experience and buying journey, then the whole retail perspective is modernised

I  would  love to  hear your views. Feel free to comment on this article, even  if you  disagree or perhaps agree,  let me know

 

 

How to gain social media followers


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Growing your brands Social following

OK, let me just start this post off by dismissing any concerns that you may have about me thinking followers are the most important measure for your social. Put simply it isn’t. But whilst we all outwardly say your followers, likes friends etc aren’t important, there is that element of vanity that means we all pay attention.

How to gain social media followers

How to gain social media followers

When looking at these numbers in context of a brand, there are genuine reasons why you need to consider follower numbers, but again, don’t make it your only focus.  A good example of this was when I first joined N Brown Group. We had a focus on growing Social Media for Simply Be in the US to enable us to generate organic traffic, buzz and awareness.  However the follower count on Instagram was very low (low double digit thousands).  This prevented people taking us seriously in the social space and caused a restricted engagement level from our audience.

We set a target of 100k Instagram followers to enable us to look credible to the audience, which in turn would improve engagement and drive organic KPIs.  Whilst I won’t go in to the specifics of what we did, the following tips on how to grow your social following will give some clues.

We hit our 100k Instagram target on SBE USA instagram

We hit our 100k Instagram target on SBE USA instagram

1. Be part of and lead conversations

The most important part of any social media approach is to be part of the conversations that your audience are interested and engaged in. Be relevant.  The days of brands not following and not engaging with their community are over.

You need to know who your audience is. Don’t deviate from that to chase followers. Be credible and relevant to those people and they will share, which should gain you more followers

Obviously there are some hygiene factors that you also need to ensure are in place:

  • Complete profile – make it interesting, provide as much info as concisely as possible and add links if relevant – this is your opportunity to convince the doubtful viewer
  • Whilst ensuring your content is always relevant is the first rule, but don’t forget to use keywords you want to be known for, hashtags etc
  • Make sure your feed is valuable and varied. Depending on the platform, sharing relevant posts is a good way to be part of the larger conversation but also allows you to tap in to other audiences.

2. Be active and engaged

Slightly linking to the previous point. People are often looking at how their numbers are perceived and from a very basic level, they do clean up the accounts that they follow. Make sure you aren’t one of the accounts they put on their consideration list to be unfollowed.

Test posting frequencies and test what content works well and when.  Comment on other relevant accounts post. Communicate with your audience, seek out others and communicate with them.

For others to consider engaging with you, make sure you are present on your target platforms. Make your account worth following.

Now the counter to this is, don’t overdo it. You can become a pest, post too much and cause people to unfollow you as well. Testing is key.

3. Always Listen

Its important to always listen to your customers

Its important to always listen to your customers

Both points up to now have been more about your behaviour and what you post. But equally important is how you respond to your audience.

Now the obvious thing to mention here is genuinely listen to your followers, its surprising how many brands don’t read or respond to comments.  You should also have a means to track sentiment to your brand and understand the feelings and perception to your brand that may not necessarily be directly posted to your platforms.

You can adapt your content strategy to help build on positive views or to address any negative perceptions.

A potentially less obvious point is look at how your followers are responding to the content you post.  If they continually speak with their feet by not engaging, their could be something wrong with what you are producing.  If they respond to a certain type, don’t just think you have the winning formula, but obviously look to see how you can expand on that theme. Don’t become a one trick pony though.

Remember, there is no shame in posting something and if it gets no engagement, take it down.  Its not interesting to your audience so it doesn’t deserve a place on your feed.  Even if it looks beautiful and you have spent time and money on the content, if your audience doesn’t like it, why is it there?

4. Build networks not just followings

Going right back to the start of this post, you shouldn’t just focus on the number of followers you have. You should be building a genuine network or community. Do this by seeking out relevant people in your network that you should be associated with. Sometimes this could simply be the accounts or people you follow. Don’t be tempted to just follow accounts with large follower base, follow relevant people, interesting people, people that you may want to share content from or engage with

Have a reason to be followed and reason why people would want to be part of your network. Could you post other accounts content on your platforms, share the audience reach and increase your follower base and that of the other account.

Its not just about influencers. Yes influencers are the new celebrities and depending on your sector, they can play an amazingly important role. But consider other brands, consider events, consider your customers. Bring those in that can enhance your network and get them active.

5. Have a point of view

Most importantly your platforms need to stand for something. It might be stunning creative. It might be a cheeky edge. It might even be deliberately controversial. Whatever your point of view you need to have one. Who wants to follow a vanilla account?

6. Hashtags

Use relevant hashtags

Use relevant hashtags

On some platforms (at the time of writing) hashtags are still useful. At this stage primarily Twitter and Instagram.

  • Don’t overdo the hashtag use though as it can make posts look desperate or unprofessional
  • Be careful on the hashtags you use. Research them before you post. Make sure the content is right to be seen next to your brand
  • Make them relevant to the content. Its easy to jump on trending topics and you might gain some short-term followers, but why would you want them if they aren’t relevant and why would they hang around if the hashtag or content posted isn’t what you are about

7. Don’t forget the traditional

Now this is an obvious one. But most brands have other marketing channels that they use.  Take the opportunity to include your focus social channels on all other channels.  Don’t forget printed material. Don’t forget outdoor. Don’t forget TV. Your site and emails are key. But if you move goods around the country, use your vehicles, receipts, delivery notes etc

If you can round all of this up with one campaign theme that lends itself to social then you are on to a winner.

The campaign idea #WeAreUs that me and the team came up with when I was at boohoo was a classic example of this. It put social at the heart of everything we were doing and also created a movement that our customers and target customers wanted to be part of.  It was such a success the #WeAre idea was adopted by many and is still in use.  That in itself is a fantastic endorsement of what we did.

Summary

Remember, followers numbers should not be the be all and end all of your social objectives. Whilst it is often frowned upon, depending on where you are in your evolution, it is a valid KPI as long as its in conjunction with other KPIs, for example engagement.

Know why you want to increase followers and what you hope that will deliver. Have a target in mind and be as obsessed with that target as you would with others, but again not in isolation.

Above all, recognise it as a little bit of vanity and put it in context against your other objectives.

Finally, be aware of fake followers as they won’t last and don’t be tempted to buy followers.  You really don’t want bots or accounts that just repost or follow paying platforms in your base.

Hopefully these tups are of interest and help. I would love to know the views of my readers so feel free to add in the comments or of course, tweet me on Twitter

Finally, don’t get obsessed with it all. Watch this video by DitchTheLabel to see what taking your social life too seriously can do


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England Football Sponsorship

This article originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile with the title “Its Coming Home” if we aren’t connected on LinkedIn feel free to add me here

As England qualified last year, in all fairness from a pretty poor qualifying group, for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, few, if any football fans expected this success. When the groups were drawn, we were expected to qualify for the first knock-out stage but probably little beyond that.

The “tactical” defeat by a second string England side against a second string, albeit still very strong Belgium side, ensured they had an easier path to navigate in the knockout stages. However, as the team has progressed so have the emotions, so have the passions and so has the feel good factor around this little old country of England.

With political turmoil and ever growing confusion around Brexit, the fortunes of a little fancied football team are helping the country. Few would have planned, but the nation and business are more than happy to embrace this. As I write this, I am awaiting the France Vs Belgium game to see who our potential final (or 3rd place playoff) opponents will be).

So I take a non-fact based look at who I believe has done well from England’s unexpected performance.

The logical first port of call is to examine the official partners of The FA. If we progress to the final, I might even look at some of the unofficial brands that have made the most of the experience.

Vauxhall

First off we have Vauxhall, who are the closest of the FA partners to the relationship we used to have when I was at Nationwide. They have their names on the training kit, I assume they have access to players and they have rights to use the official badge and players in their marketing materials. Bizarrely though, the automotive brand seems to have failed to embrace either the success or even the fact they are a partner of the FA. Whilst it may difficult and costly for a larger company with rigid processes to adapt TV creative to respond to the current opportunity, they should be able to adapt press and could definitely make more of it on their social media. If you were to look at Vauxhall’s social media channels, even Facebook, the one they could adapt to location if they were worried about alienating people, there is no reference to football or England. The imaginative content the brand could have produced shows this is a huge missed opportunity and a bit of a shame.

Nike

As main kit suppliers Nike are embedded with the FA and fans alike. You can’t see England without seeing the famous tick. Nike’s potential issue in terms of really taking advantage of the current buzz is their global accounts and their stable of countries they are involved with. Nike actually supplies kit for three of the four semi-finalists, with only Belgium bucking the trend with their adidas kit. Nike is so in to its brand with amazing executions, that genuine football fans would forgive them and still consider them part of what was going on. They could still do a bit more in terms of content and tailoring their properties for the English market, but they do pretty well.

Buildbase

Now maybe I am not their target customer. OK. I am not the Buildbase target customer, but until I looked it up, I had no idea that they were a partner of The FA and haven’t seen them at all in conjunction with this England push. Even when looking at their social accounts, you would be forgiven for not realising they were so closely aligned. Apart from a quite poor game and some unimaginative posts the brand seems to have wasted its opportunity to engage and undoubted football audience. Perhaps you can move in their stores for football paraphernalia

Mars

Mars have been involved with the FA for some time and the are great at capitalising on their relationship. They do have the undoubted advantage of selling quite a few of their products and being able to put on pack promotions and messages that are in pretty much every supermarket, petrol station and convenience store in the England. Their ATL efforts clearly align them to the football team and there is no doubt of the connection. As England have progressed, it feels their ads are more regular which shows great ability to capitalise on the mood of the nation. Bizarrely, if there is a weakness in its armoury, again it is in content and social media, where its Mars football accounts have small following, infrequent posts and low engagement.

Lidl

After a successful partnership with Sainsbury over the years, it came as some surprise that Lidl was unveiled as its new partner. The Lidl TV ads were actually fun and engaging and really use humour and the human angle to captivate an audience. However in terms of retail execution, something was awry. Particularly as Sainsbury’s still seemed to have a volume of “official” England merchandise available in store. Its presence on content on both Twitter and Facebook appear strong, however Instagram feels the poor relation. Overall though it was a good showing from the German retailer.

Carlsberg

Carlsberg extended its long-standing relationship with the England football team. With other relationships in football the brand has genuinely smashed it again. A strong branded website and great content relevant to its audience. Again, the publishing of social could be stronger but assets are strong.

Lucozade Sport

With a reputation engrained in sports its not really a surprise that Lucozade have a good take on how to run a sports marketing initiative. Their on pack materials are limited but the content they have produced is strong and lives comfortably across all social channels. They have done good work with many influencers both football and non-football related. It was surprising that there wasn’t more native video built specifically for the platforms and for others to push out and share.

Overall, of the official partners I looked at their pushing of the association with the England team is mixed. Very few have really taken the tactical opportunity of the unexpected success. None of the brands, with the exception of Nike delivered a particularly strong presence in terms of social.

I feel Vauxhall who had the biggest right to do something was the biggest disappointment. So, if anybody from Vauxhall is reading this, get in touch.

The lesson for me from this exercise is one of how to tactically take advantage of an event (that may be unexpected). Also, how much potential there is in the realms of sponsorship and sports marketing, still out there in relation to social media. Now that gives me an idea…


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Internationalisation or Not

In my recent roles I have found myself engrained in making organisations international. Now, I say international deliberately and not global as i firmly believe internationalisation is very different from globalisation.  International in my head means expanding to some overseas territories picked for strategic and commercial reasons.  Globalisation is changing your business models, culture and processes to become truly global and as such your business can operate in any country, utilising all of the existing processes and investments you have already made.

International Vs Global

International Vs Global

Anyway, enough of my views on the difference between the two nuances, I have managed to make two brands achieve success in the US, with boohoo and SimplyBe.  Whilst this is not unique it is unusual, as there are more failed UK brands going to US than successes.

In a follow up post I will explore some of the specifics that I think we have made to help brands successful, but in this first post, I will apply some of the aspects already out there from huge success story Pret.

  1. Don’t change essential parts of your model
  2. US customers insist on customisation
  3. US customers like variety
  4. Don’t underestimate seasonal influence
  5. Bigger is often better

1. Don’t change essential parts of your model

One of they reasons for expanding internationally (aside from more people to target) is to maximise the investment in current assets.  If you can keep the majority of your model in tact then you can leverage your existing investment and create operational efficiencies. A sound reason.

However not only do you create operational efficiencies, the essential parts of your model also help define who you are as a business and depending on the element, even who you are as a brand.  For this reason it is critical to understand the core elements of your business, brand and model and keep them as intrinsic part of your overseas presence.

For example at SimplyBe, the core of the brand is to produce fashion that fits and flatters for a curvy girl.  The core age of the customer was 25-35. Whilst we produced bespoke creative and tweaked the way we approached the customer given the market and cultural differences between the US and UK customer in that target, the core of the brand was retained.

Sarina Nowak for Simply Be USA

Sarina Nowak for Simply Be USA

2. US Customer Insist on Customisation

Americans are a proud bunch of people and not only like things are their terms but are pretty vocal and stubborn if they don’t receive it.  The Pret example showed that they had to offer self-serve points for hot drinks and salad dressings.  It is no different for fashion.  Obviously if you have designed for a global customer from the outset and mirroring trends or fashion from the global shows this is less pronounced. However, as we did at SimplyBe, sometimes you know there are gaps in your product offer and as per the previous point you don’t want to make wholesale changes to your range, however you can add components that are right for the audience. With the traditntal SimplyBe range the product was quite stable and as the US landscape is much more competitive and diverse, we identified the likes of Athleisure and cropped garments were missing.

This is not unique to SImplyBe.  Brands often use collaborations to help resonate with a local audience and adapt ranges to suit audiences. However, other brands such as some within the Pentland Group assign a proportion of their overall product strategy to be allocated for local markets.  Several success stories also have local design resource to understand, on the ground, what is happening.

3. US Customers Like Variety

US customers like and demand variety. The Pret example is classic evidence of this in action. When they moved soup size choices down from two to one, it was a disaster.  They moved back to two (and in some regions six) and the sales responded accordingly.  The fact they developed further product options also shows how important variety is.

This, I believe is one of the reasons, boohoo has been successful in the US. After all, there is so much choice in terms of style and so much choice in options on the same products.  This has helped the average basket size climb and also the value per order.

4. Don’t Underestimate Seasonal Influence

Now the example given in the Pret article explains perfectly why seasonality is so important in food. However, this is true for other sectors in the US as well. Obviously, the seasonality issue is far different in different areas of the US. Winter in Minneapolis is very different to winter in Miami. This is something UK brands need to remember. Yes Inverness is different to Bournemouth but the contrast isn’t as great. If you can accurately reflect seasonality particularly winter on the site experience, you have something that sets you apart.

Minneapolis Snow demonstrates Seasonal differences

Minneapolis Snow demonstrates Seasonal differences

5. Bigger is Often Better

In the final example given in the Pret piece, it says Americans expect space. This is the one point I believe is different per sector. Retail in the US is very spread on this issue, with Mall culture very important in some areas, however, smaller boutiques are as important in Manhattan.

Whatever you think, Pret is a massive success story and whilst all of the points may not be right for every business, they are good reflection points for anybody looking to expand in to the US.

The whole basis of this article is to demonstrate how the US needs attention and in some circumstances needs tailoring. With this in mind, from my personal definition of globalisation vs internationalisation, international feels right.

The original article on Pret can be found here

Love to know what you think. What your views are.  Let me know by commenting on here or by reaching out on Twitter

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder


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Young Entrepreneurs

We all hear about the younger people out there innovating and becoming genuine entrepreneurs. In my recent career I have been lucky enough to meet some of these people.

When I meet somebody who is young(er) and has amazing talent, I try to help and support.  Whilst this may sound altruistic in nature, the truth of it is, I believe we are all always learning. I learn and develop my knowledge and approach by speaking to them.

So I will highlight, on an ad-hoc basis some of these great business people I ave personally come across. The only rules. I have to think they are great and under 30.

First off, and I haven’t asked him, so I hope he doesn’t mind.

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder

  1. Steven Bartlett (CEO and Founder) Social Chain

I first met Steven when I invited him to come in and speak to me at boohoo. This was off the back of a Youth Marketing contract he spoke at (and I was meant to be speaking at).  The issue that we wanted Social Chain’s help with? Well effectively to help magnify what was already a strong social media presence.

We needed to grow a global audience, but ensure that that audience was fully engaged.

Steven was refreshing in that like other “agencies” he came in with a deck. The difference though was he was reacting to the conversation, rather than just slavlishly going through the deck. He was pulling insight from tools, showing examples and coming up with ideas on the fly.

This was different and exactly how we ran at boohoo. A good plan, but always able to move as things change, a real agile way of working.

We gave Steven and Social Chain a trial, which was hard to explain, given we were already one of the most engaged social brands in the UK. But his passion was infectious and his ideas were new.

Needless to say, the proof was definitely in the pudding and Steven along with his Social Chain team fully delivered to expectations.

I also took Social Chain to my role at N Brown where the backdrop was completely different. We were operating in a smaller sector with an unknown brand in the US. With a tiny 15-20k Instagram followers for SimplyBe and nobody engaging, we had an issue.

Using different techniques and really working with me and my team, we came up with  strategy and series of activities that led to us driving 100k Instagram followers for SimlyBe in the US in around 6-8 months. Overtaking the UK account.

Social Chain Environment

Social Chain Environment

Now, you could argue the Social Chain team are the ones doing all of the work. To be fair, Steven is one of the nicest and most humble professionals I have ever met and he would probably say the same. But his team and his business operate in his mould. They are hard working. The are passionate about what they do. They are all hungry for results. But they all act in a professional yet down to earth and friendly way.

Looking around their Manchester office, where it all started, albeit in a much smaller way.  Steven’s personality and vision plays a central role. From the huge slide dominating the main office, to the working/sleeping pods, this is no normal place to work.

If you need to get to grips with your social media and aren’t afraid to try new things, get hold of Steven, I promise you will not regret it.

Sorry Steven, I should have asked first, but I didn’t.

Oh and one final thing, he likes a nice hat

One Size Does Not Fit All


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Personalisation is a bit over-rated

Its been a while since I updated this blog and looking back now at some of the topics, I  can understand why.  But I have been inspired by a few people to resume writing content.

The main purpose of my blog is to give personal opinion and perspective, as opposed to self-promotion or facts and figures based post. People have been telling me there are a lack of “professional” marketing blogs which actually are grounded and have personality. So lets hope I can deliver on at least one of those counts.

So I come back with a bit of nostalgia

I was invited to take the stage at the Drapers forum, now over three years ago in 2015.  I was joining joint-CEO and then colleague at boohoo, Carol Kane.  As seemingly the technical marketing person I was asked a series of questions.  One was from the audience and asked about personalisation. Now apologies to the individual, I cannot remember who asked, but my response got quite a reaction.

drapers logo

Personalisation is a bit over-rated, my quote from Drapers forum

The question was effectively related to how can brands get closer to customers and what were our views on personalisation. My response “I think personalisation is a bit over-rated”

Now that got headlines and even boohoo colleagues coming in and repeating the quote.  The headline was great and actually became quite funny, however, I did go on to substantiate what I meant. I spoke about segmenting customers properly and actually offering degrees of mass personalisation (customisation) could be as if not more effective and yet provide less operational pressures.

So some three years later have my views changed? Well with the developments in AI and machine learning, there is a greater argument for personalisation, never greater than previously.  However, the technology at present is only really effective at certain parts of the journey.  This is increasingly changing though.

In terms of the creative front end of a site, personalisation can still cause organisational strains. If you regularly change images, promo messages and or categories, the design consequences and processes needed to personalise to a genuinely deep level could cause resource repercussions.  Many businesses still struggle to cope with designing and building pages for BAU and some potential A/B or multivariate tests.

With this in mind, mass customisation of pages and journeys could still be a better solution.  For retailers, the ability to change the merchandising of a shopping journey based on data of the crowd, or from AI of individuals do make sense. Although I haven’t had chance to explore the functionality of people like Bloomreach to its fullest, the promise of what it can offer feels closer to what I would value in personalisation.

One Size Does Not Fit All

One Size Does Not Fit All

The ability to set business rules for behaviours that are regular, using crowd date means you are technically personalising, but really again just personalising for segments or groups of customers.  What the technologies allow you to do is make those groups much smaller and more highly targeted, in turn making the journey more effective.

Now, if I sit down and write this same piece and say, I think I still feel the same in three years time, I will be stunned.  Developments in AI and machine learning are advancing so quickly, personalisation should be much easier and of course the processes will be shortened to make it happen.

Article can be found on drapers here

I would love to hear your views on this one.  I know I am probably in the minority of one in my views, but I am always happy to be different.  After all, the people that asked me to kick this blog back off asked me to give my personal views and here you have them.