Rich Clark Marketing

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

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What Happened to Foursquare?

Whilst considering approaches for our clients Social Media strategies, I was doing the usual thing of wondering what platforms would suit their customer base and of course the objectives of their activity.  At one point last year people were heralding the dawn on a new era.  Social Media was finally finding its feet and earning its commercial water wings. Not in a traditional digital marketing sense, but in a multi-channel sense.  What was driving this, the advent of Foursquare.

Foursquare Logo

Foursquare was the new thing we all needed to get excited about.  Taking people’s passions and love for social media and melding itwith their new found love with smartphones and a pinch of real-world and the ingredients were there for a winning combo.  Or so we thought.  This view was backed up by the decision in August 2010, at Facebook to launch their Foursquare killer, Facebook Places.

Easy to say it now, but I remember sitting in the offices at Best Buy and being quite cynical about the whole thing, while others were raving.  Whilst I didn’t doubt the concept of blurring social with real world, my belief was that this would have to be simplified to the extent the user wouldn’t have to do a thing and there was a sufficent reward for them doing so.

For a while I did doubt my own wisdom.  I signed up to Foursquare, after all, if you’re in the industry thats whay you do.  I had Google Wave, Google Buzz, Bebo, MySpace etc etc log-ins but no idea what they are now.  More and more contacts started popping up.  Note I used the word contacts.  It seemed to get quite noisy and then ther integration with Twitter came about and my timeline got loaded with people checking in to shops, sports grounds and fast food outlets.  Frankly it got a little annoying.  The point of the word contact was, most of the interactions were by people I knew in digital or technology, with a few friends who were early adopters.  None of my proper friends could be bothered.

The rewards on offer at the likes of Foursquare just aren’t interesting. Pretty juvenile really becoming the mayor of HMV in Oxford Street.  Apologies to all the various Foursquare mayors I have just offended.  I read with interest the fact that Facebook was closing its Places service, whilst it isn’t completely backing out of geo services it does show that its not the Xanadu some thought it would be.

Maybe Facebook just got it wrong and Foursquare demolished Facebook places.  Ironically the biggest boost Foursquare got to its numbers was when Facebook announced its Places service.  In terms of people looking for Foursquare on Google it would appear that the search volume has already peaked.  The August 2010 Facebook announcement got it mainstream and created the big boost, the numbers levelled but still at a higher than pre-announcement.  Foursquare also had a second boost around April this year when Amazon announced its servers had taken out both Foursquare and Reddit.

Google Trends view on Foursquare search volume

Google Trends view on Foursquare search volume

The light for Foursquare is that although things haven’t really sparked for them in the UK or Europe in general, they are big on technology advanced Asia and the population of Indonesia seem to be searching in their droves.  Some would say we need to treat Google data such as this with some scepticism.  Whilst I wouldn’t pass comment on that, even if you don’t believe the core numbers, the trend is still there.  Backed further by a quick search on Alexa.com where a similar story can be found.

Alexa ranking of Foursquare

The same pattern is true in terms of reach according to Alexa.  The April spike exists in April, but after that, the traffic drops back.  For me this demonstrates a lack of engagement with Foursquare.  Not complete lack of engagement, but low engagement on a relative base to the likes of Twitter and Facebook, its not to say it can’t happen.

My view is that there could still be a place for Foursquare or an equivalent service.  However they need to offer real value to users, something that makes users want to engage or embrace mobile technology to its fullest and minimise the engagement and actions needed in the physical world.  Foursquare and other services such as Gowalla still have a long way to go.  Once somebody has cracked it, the sector could ignite and present great currency for users and no-brainer commercial options for multichannel brands.

Remember the key to all of these platforms is mobile.  With this in mind we need to keep a watching eye on Google, with the rise of G+ and obviously the Android operating system gaining momentum, they could be in a good place to crack it.  If the minds at Google can work out what “it” is.


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My Time at Best Buy

As most of you are aware my time is now officially up at Best Buy.  After over two years at the US company (I can’t believe it is that long either) it is time to move on.  A lot has been achieved over my time there, some of which I will account for below and I have met a number of very good people.  Above all I joined Best Buy for two reasons.  One reason was to launch a brand from scratch, something most marketing professionals in th UK have yet to do, and fewer digital marketers have had that responsibility.  Secondly was because of the great people-based culture Best Buy had.

The second part of that has changed during my time in lovely North Acton and I suppose it had to change to a degree as the organisation comes to terms from being a start-up to becoming a dominant player in the UK CE space, something they should be well-equipped to become.

So what was achieved?

Launch of a Brand

We had a lot to do on this. Rather than just transmitting the US brand to the UK, we had to establish what the UK consumer wanted and needed and deliver propositions against that.  In the early days I was one of the key stakeholders in the process and we had some great debates on how to shape the brand and in turn the plans accordingly.  As the Marcomms team grow and we went from launch and branding to BAU this moved to the more traditional team.  We won an award for one of the service propositions we created ‘Walk Out Working’

Social Media

I may have been lucky in joining a brand that embraces Social Media more than some, at a time when social media was going from infancy to adolescence.  But, I feel this was one of our main success stories – recognised by being voted number 5 in the UK’s Top 100 Social Brands.  We did more than just build buzz around driving Facebook page numbers or Twitter followers.  We tracked behaviour and listened to conversations and reacted accordingly.

In addition we created content calendars to drive Social Media currency and providing worthwhile content for people to visit and engage with us on our platforms.  This included attending Trade and Consumer shows in addition to covering Entertainment events.

One of my brainchilds TechXpert did very well and given the right backing by the business will help differentiate Best Buy in both Social Media and through site usability.

Watch out for others on the horizon that have already been developed including TwelpForce and IdeaX.

Affiliates

Our affiliate programme grew from absolutely nothing to a roaring success over night.  We built very strong relationships with key affiliates including Quidco, MyVoucherCodes, Nectar and CoolKitchen as well as with some of the others you may not know.  We created a programme that was far more competitive than anybody in our sector and listened to affiliates and their needs.  This was recognised at this years A4U Forum where the Best Buy programme won ‘Best Newcomer’

Mobile

Although not launched officially as yet,  the work already put in means Best Buy is well-placed in terms of apps and m-Commerce.

Site

The site in my opinion is the cleanest and most customer-centric of all core-CE competitors.  It was built using a combination of best-practice and usability studies with our customers.  We also used Exit Surveys post-launch to see where we could change further.

Social Commerce

We were the first retailer in the UK to launch a Facebook store-front, allowing users to access the entire catalogue within Facebook, share or like with friends and go off and buy.  Other work in this area has been done, but it would be unfair to reveal what that is.

Viral

We produced a great viral to link Best Buy and our people with the World Cup.  That despite no link with the World Cup and no online presence.  The video which also featured a competition element, pitted two of our brilliant blueshirts from Merry Hill setting up the ultimate mancave featuring great tech but also a kebab oven, slush puppy machine and man nappies.  The video got c. 250k views and loads of comments within just two weeks.

Overall

There was a lot covered in the two years and it was a great learning experience, not only for me but for all involved.  There is a lot more that we managed to do that is not in here, but I didn’t want to bore you all too much.  I joined Best Buy for a challenge and it certainly delivered in that respect.  It was a great time with its fair share of ups and downs but overall good.

Last word

I couldn’t write this post without acknowledging perhaps one of the best leaders I have ever worked with.  Now I don’t normally go for the cheesy American stuff or Raa Raa as most of you know.  But one of our original leaders at Best Buy was absolutely inspirational.  He believed in what we were doing and was absolutely passionate about Best Buy.  He treated every employee as a member of his family an he genuinely had the best interests of everybody at heart.  Paul Antoniadis sadly left Best Buy and in my humble opinion I still don’t think they have replaced his passion or enthusiasm.

I know Paul is off doing his own thing now and doing very well for himself (I imagine with much shorter days as well).  There were many other people within Best Buy who were good and helped make it a great place and they know who they are.

Now I move on to new things, which will be revealed very shortly.  Needless to say everything I have learned over the past two years will be utilised and built upon.  So watch my LinkedIn profile to see what’s next.


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Social Brands 100 – #sb100

Some time ago I was informed that Best Buy had been nominated to appear in the Social Brands 100 list for our social media efforts in the UK. This was a great honour as the nominations had been sourced from the public.  I personally feel this is a good endorsement for all the hard work myself and the team have put in to make the impact we have had as a new brand.  Special shout has to go to my Social Media Manager, Graeme Cole who is busy on a well earned sabbatical at the moment touring the southern hemisphere. He is back soon.

To find out a couple of weeks ago that we finished fifth was massive for us.  To beat the likes of ASOS and Zappos is a great feeling.  In addition to being the only player in our sector to feature in the Top 100 is a great achievement.

So why have we been placed so highly? For the official answers and scoring criteria see the #sb100 report here.  From a personal perspective I feel we have tried to cover all the basis within social media.

1 On-site

We have created a core community platform that provides forums for customers and/or general visitors to talk about tech or general tech and entertainment related subjects.  In addition we are very transparent with customer service questions and requests for expertise. We rarely moderate and try to do so on a fair basis.

We also have an active blog base which covers, tech, entertainment and updates from Best Buy. I have personally covered the likes of Gadget Show Live and interviewed Suzi Perry and Ortis Deley.  Other great content includes coverage from the Brits and BAFTA ceremonies.

2 Reviews

Reviews come from both the well known aggregator Reevoo but also our own panel of TechXperts. These guys review the latest kit from Energy Monitors to the latest 3D TV.  The platform is also open for members of the public to upload their own video.

3. Social Platforms

We are active on all the major platforms, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  On each of the platforms we tailor the activity to suit the audience.  However we often run competitions, upload photos from events and provide updates and offers for our base.  Perhaps most importantly we encourage customers to ask questions and if need be, give us feedback, no matter how difficult it may be.  We always try to respond quickly and as thoroughly as we can.  We also do it from a personal perspective rather than as a company.

4. Social Commerce

In addition, as reported in NMA we also have a Facebook store, which allows our fan base to check prices, look at the latest kit all from Facebook.

This is just the start for Best Buy in the UK.  We have driven this growth organically without any advertising or promotion to speak of.  We also have a couple more ideas up our sleeves that could help customers engage with us further so watch this space.

Would love to hear what you think of what we have done so far and of course any ideas for the future.  Also, do you think we deserved the lofty position?

Just a final point, I would personally like to thank anybody that nominated us and thank the guys Headstream and the panel for their views and feedback.  Now we just need to aim for higher next time!


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I’m Back!!!

Well this isn’t a quote from a film.  Its to announce I am trying to get back in to my blogging.  Haven’t done it for some time and feel that I have neglected my regular readers.

So first and foremost, apologies for that.

What have I been up to.  Well the main reason for the lack of blog posts is the day job.  Hopefully it won’t have escaped your attention but we have now successfully launched the Best Buy website and of course all the marketing that goes with it.  How has it gone? Well obviously I won’t be revealing any commercials here, but overall the launch and our first peak went well.  We have certainly made a dent on the sector and helped ourself to a fair share.

We have managed to combine social media and acquisition marketing to drive business and traffic to a national website with low brand awareness.  Not a mean achievement.

Anyway enough of this, I have a post in draft which I hope to put live soon.

Take care and feel free to read any previous posts and leave feedback or comments.


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Apologies

Just a quick note to thank you for all the kind messages that I have received from people who read my blog.  Honestly I didn’t think anybody even read it.

Well I have been really busy with long days at Best Buy, but what a challenge.  The first stores have been launched, we have a great holding site and warming up for the national launch.

I promise to get back into the blogging though. Maybe a new post when I have a week off soon.

In the meantime, feel free to follow me on Twitter Richard Clark

Take care


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Best Buy Launches UK Holding Page

UK Holding Page Live for Best Buy

I am not one to generally do plugs for my place of work on this blog.  I generally don’t do short blog posts either.  However on this occassion I am happy to make an exception.

We have launched a holding page for Best Buy UK as our first step towards our UK launch.   Let me know what you think.

As you might expect from Best Buy, we aren’t contented to put up a page and leave it at that.   We have also set-up an e-Mail address to hear your views.  The first subject we want to hear your opinions on is your current experiences of shopping for consumer electronics in the UK.

This is the start of our approach to launch, bookmark the page or look out for updates on Twitter @BestBuyUK

Enjoy


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Missing Blog Posts

So as some regular readers of my blog will have noticed I haven’t posted any articles recently.  Firstly I would like to apologise, this isn’t because I have lost interest but due to the fact that I have recently changed roles and endure a daily 2 hour commute each way.

So what am I doing now?

Having made my career progress at DSGi taking over all Online Marketing, Design and Content for Currys, Dixons and PC World,  I dBest Buy Logoecided it was time to seek a new challenge.  Thankfully plenty of offers were on the table and I was lucky enough to choose from some fantastic opportunities.   I decided to opt for remaining in Consumer Electronics retailing but try my hand at delivering my experience within a start-up.  The opportunity at Best Buy (as reported in NMA) allowed me to set up a department and functions from scratch.

Carphone Warehouse Store Front

Whilst Best Buy aren’t your traditional start-up (part of the World’s largest Consumer Electronics Retailer) it does mean you get involved in absolutely everything.  Formulating strategy, developing plans and ensuring buy-out throughout the entire organisation.   Add in the Carphone Warehouse (who I am supprting on a consultancy basis)  element and you get an organisation of amazing scale and opportunity.

 

 

Back to tradition

In addition to truly formulating the online marketing approach I am also, driving the overall brand and comms strategy, everything from brand architecture and positioning through to developing a fully integrated comms strategy.  All this in conjunction with the Head of Marcomms, allowing us to really plan from a joined up foundation from day one.  A really refreshing approach and one that has to be the way forward.  The main obstacle blocking generally preventing this from happenning is the fact that many online marketers don’t have experience in branding or ATL comms.  Luckily my experience at both Reuters and Nationwide is helping me lead and define the approach

More to come

Whilst I can’t promise to be as active as I once was on this blog, I will start to try and produce more articles again.  Thanks to everybody for reading and thanks for the positive and constructive feedback both through the comments on the blog and via e-mail.  Also look out for updates on Best Buy as we get closer to our 2010 UK launch.