With the growth of E-commerce in recent years, impulsive shopping on the high street is slowly becoming a thing of the past; today’s consumer is seen as the “well-informed shopper”, one who typically spends around 10 hours researching online and visiting two to three websites before buying from a website. And these informed shoppers don’t stop once the purchase has been made. They continue to monitor the product they have just bought to ensure they got the best deal.
Today’s consumers have the tools – literally at their fingertips – to immerse themselves in a retailer’s brand and also to express their feelings on blogs or social media if the product is broken, the online shopping experience disappoints, or a purchase costs more than if it had bought from another website. According to PwC’s latest Global Total Retail Survey of online shoppers, 55% provided positive or negative comments about their experiences with a product or brand on social media.
With the rise of the informed shopper, having an integrated, multi-channel, total retail marketing strategy is essential to boost engagement and ultimately improve the bottom line. A brand can’t survive in today’s online world simply with a website as a digital presence.
Today’s consumers now expect a multichannel shopping experience. Physical stores, a website capable of handling purchases, a mobile site or app and a presence on social channels such as Facebook, twitter, YouTube and google+ are viewed as essentials to maintain a healthy relationship with a consumer.
Zero moment of truth
A brand’s first encounter with a potential buyer starts with the “Zero moment of Truth” when the prospect (or shopper) has first heard about the brand and knows nothing about it. The shopper starts by searching the brand on Google and will continue to research while switching between different channels to immerse in the brand. To get an overview, an informed shopper will start with a brand’s own claims to know what the brand has promised to deliver, then check on social channels to find out how the brand is actually delivering, what efforts are being made to keep the customer happy, what latest technologies have been adopted by the brand and, finally, if all goes well, making a purchase. This is Phase 1 of the Customer Life Cycle.
Phase 2 determines the customers’ life-time value, which depends upon their experience with the brand. If they are happy with their first purchase, they are likely to follow the brand, engage with it via social channels and provide productive comments about their experience, which will not only help their friends, but also the brand.
This doesn’t end here. Most important is to maintain this relationship with the customer. It is so easy to distract your customer in today’s online world, where your competitors are trying their best to steal your customer away by offering them low prices, free vouchers, free shipping, easy payment options, personalised emails and many other inducements.
Building trust with the customer
Phase 3 involves building trust. A 2013 survey by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten revealed that trust is key to competing beyond price online. The survey found that while consumers love nothing better than a bargain (61%), almost half of global shoppers (49%) surveyed consider the reliability of the retailer to be paramount when making purchase decisions online.
Retailer trust was most valued in the East, where countries such as Indonesia (69%) and Thailand (65%) ranked reliability as the number one feature when shopping online. In the US, reliability came second only to price, with 75% of Americans citing price as an essential purchase driver.
Contrary to the popular belief that shipping and payment options are of high importance to consumers, research also revealed that less than a third (29%) of shoppers surveyed globally saw shipping options as a key factor in their purchase decision. This average falls to around a quarter (26%) in Europe and 33% in the US. Meanwhile, payment options were even less significant, accounting for just 20% of responses globally. Notably, this fell to just 6% for British shoppers and 9% for Americans.
So for a brand to succeed in this new market of informed shoppers and pro-active competitors, the key is a multi-channel consumer-focused approach.
A few months ago, I was hired by Illustrated London News Ltd as a Historical Researcher. As a recent history graduate I was thrilled to be employed in a role that could utilise my historical knowledge to exploit the company’s vast archive, which holds the entire collections of The Illustrated London News and the other illustrated magazines known as the “Great Eight” publications.
I admit I was initially unsure how this would ultimately benefit a marketing and publishing company with a specialty in luxury premium brands. However, I soon learnt the value that the archive holds with modern-day companies, particularly high-ends brands and retailers. Indeed, a brand with an archive has significant advantages over its competitors.
One of the most important rewards a company can expect from effectively managing its archive is through increasing brand knowledge and awareness. This year, Godiva commissioned Illustrated London News Ltd to create a book that captures the luxury chocolatier’s rich history and tells the story of its development as a company over the past 88 years. This has involved historians uncovering fascinating material in its archive that best conveys Godiva’s heritage to its customers and the public
Archives also have direct commercial value as a source of product innovation. Ideas that have been lost and forgotten can be re-discovered and re-packaged for today’s market. This is particularly valuable for the fashion industry with decades-old styles constantly coming back into fashion. The Savile Row tailor Gieves and Hawkes hired archivists to help dig up old designs to be used in their “capsule collection”. Archival material helped with campaigns based around its long-standing reputation as a royal tailor as well as pieces written about its history as a designer for the Royal Navy going as far back as the Napoleonic wars.
Differentiation, closely linked with brand knowledge, is also an important incentive for luxury brands to manage their archives. Every company has a unique story to tell, one that incorporates its achievements, company culture, product, people and reputation. Telling your story can create the kind of loyalty that gives a brand a real competitive advantage in particularly tough markets.
A striking example of storytelling in the world of luxury brands is Valentino Garavani’s online 3D museum. Using images and information from over 5,000 documents, the Italian fashion house has pieced together an interactive history of Valentino’s work that shows the impact he and his brand have had on the world.
An archive also acts as the memory of the business. It can be used as evidence against trademark infringement or an assault on reputation. It can also be employed to strengthen the standing of a company amongst its employees and in the business community at large. An archive can also show how a brand has adapted amid economic uncertainties and technological change and continues to evolve.
For a company, an archive is the most fantastic resource. Those with a long history can utilise their historical material for today. For newer brands, adopt an efficient archiving process now so you can reap the benefits in the future.
“You just have to live and life will give you pictures,” declared the great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. And nowadays we have such a variety of ways to capture an image, from lomography (the retro form of analogue photography) to smart phones that means every moment can be captured.
After two previous attempts, I finally managed to make it to the Pompidou Centre in Paris with my wife and daughter for a restrospective of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work. We had limited time because our ferry in Calais was set to depart in four-and-a-half hours. We rushed towards the gallery entrance hall only to find a queue of fellow travellers slowly snaking its way to the door. After 20 minutes, we were finally in. On the white painted walls hung small black-and-white photographs surrounded by crowds of people.
These were photographs in the analogue sense. Distilled from light and chemicals, they took on a life of their own. Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) was an artist who captured the “decisive moment” instinctively. He was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement in the 1920s and 1930s and you can see this in the way he composed his photographs, as if hunting prey, waiting or moving around his subjects until that fleeting composition presented itself. Using a manual Leica with no light meter, his experience would enable him to set the correct shutter and aperture to capture that moment.
These days photography has become commonplace, technology having placed a camera in everyone’s hands in the form of a smart phone. You no longer have to be an enthusiast to sport a digital single lens reflex camera because the price on previously expensive technology has made this equipment very affordable. These cameras are all digital and images are captured in a totally different way. Previously, film was expensive so every shot counted. Now hundreds of shots can be taken with no cost apart from the initial outlay for a memory card that can be repeatedly reused.
When film was the medium to capture images, more time was taken to compose the scene and make sure all the settings – aperture, shutter speed, exposure and focus – were correctly set. With some experience, particular effects could be applied by changing one or more of these settings. The depth-of-field could be changed by adjusting the aperture, allowing different parts of the scene to be in or out of focus. Fast-moving subjects could be frozen or blurred by adjusting the shutter speed.
Nowadays, most scenes are captured using automatic settings. Although it makes photography much easier and more dynamic, there is a loss of skill. Also in the past, film was chemically processed, giving high resolution results. I have spent many an hour in the darkroom coaxing images from exposed photographic paper soaked in developer chemicals. Digital images are rarely printed and are mostly shared to appear on social media networks.
Photography helped accelerate the exponential rise of social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr). The immediacy of social media networks has made digital photography fantastically popular. Mobile phone cameras are also used as an aide-memoire (car park spaces, a dissembled electric car window, motorbike clutch, electronic circuits and recipes to name a few things I’ve photographed), to share moments almost instantly and globally. The selfie (self-portrait) has entered the vernacular.
Photography has made an amazing journey in the past century and digital reigns supreme, even though Lomo photography has made analogue hip again. There has been a rise in popularity of obsolete formats such as vinyl and audio cassette and there is a place for them all.
Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to follow a trip of a lifetime for my niece, Hayleigh Hume. A 21-year-old art and design student, currently studying a BA Honours in Photography at Hertfordshire University, Hayleigh has always looked for opportunities to explore new and unusual places that people wouldn’t really pick out of a holiday brochure and she has worked hard to achieve her dream of taking photographs of animals in the wild. She recently won a month’s photography internship with Oceans Campus, which offers wildlife volunteer programmes, student training and wildlife career internships in South Africa. She was initially nervous when she arrived but, as you can see from some of her pictures, she soon made friends.
With the help of Facebook, we have been able to follow her adventures, with daily updates and photographs. She has done some incredible things, such as skydiving, shark-cage diving (she didn’t sleep at all the night before) and diving with seals, as well as climbing Table Mountain.
If it wasn’t for Facebook, we would have had to wait for daily telephone calls from her to make sure she was safe. But Facebook saved the day. And more and more of us are sharing our lives online. By the end of 2013, Facebook estimated it had 1.23 billion monthly active users with 757 million users logging on to Facebook each day.
Brands are also taking note of social media. Research by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has found that 75 per cent of Twitter users have interacted with a brand in the past three months and more than 50 per cent on Facebook. Birds Eye recently opened a pop-up restaurant for three days in London where diners could get a free meal by posting an image of it on Instagram. The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain has launched its “Six Word Wows” campaign, which invites customers to capture an experience.
Hayleigh has found her internship a life-changing experience and she wants to continue to promote the need for animal welfare in her own photographic career. We are all so proud of her.
The world of “e-tail” is changing. Luxury e-commerce consumers are expecting more from their online experience and editorial engagement is increasingly the answer. A virtual magazine (or blog), carefully curated around points of sale, offers a bridge between commerce and content. It not only allows customers an insightful, unique and enjoyable way to shop, but also becomes a destination in its own right.
Net-A-Porter, Matches, Farfetch, My Wardrobe and Excelsior Milano are just some of the e-commerce sites offering innovative editorial to their shoppers. Re-imagining the print magazines that have influenced consumers since the start of the 19th century, the brands capture and inspire their audience through regular features, such as Q&A interviews, celebrity style pages and travel guides as well as cutting-edge video and design, with seamless shopping links throughout. This encourages customers to buy into the brand’s voice, identity and, ultimately, lifestyle.
Two iconic British brands, Anya Hindmarch and Paul Smith, have both created lifestyle blogs. Anya’s World and Paul Smith World provide “backstage” insights into their brands, bringing a sense of personalisation and aspiration associated with the products they sell. Combined with social media marketing, they aim to connect their customer to their story and, later, their product.
It has been estimated that Net-A-Porter’s site received an average of six million global visitors per month last year. It is no coincidence that the brand’s editorial content goes from strength to strength in the form of a digital magazine, The Edit, and the recent hardback launch, Porter. Featuring high profile covers, with Lara Stone, Gisele Bündchen and Lady Gaga, and a slick selection of feature stories, Porter rivals, if not triumphs, many of the newsstand glossies. And it’s no surprise with Lucy Yeomans, ex-Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, at the helm. She tells Business of Fashion that “a magazine is entertainment. You have to remember to entertain and inspire, as well as provide solutions.”
Yeomans is not the only editor who has jumped ship. Carmen Borgonovo, fashion director at my-wardrobe.com, also made the move from Harper’s Bazaar, while Tilly Macalister Smith left the esteemed offices of Vogue behind her to take the position of Fashion Features Editor at Matches, and Jeremy Langmead left Esquire to launch Mr Porter magazine, telling Business of Fashion that “in the luxury fashion sector at least, this is the publishing model of the future: a blend of content and commerce talking in realtime to a highly engaged audience with a finger primed to purchase.”
The fact that many newsstand magazines are introducing online shopping channels, such as Harper’s Bazaar’s ShopBAZAAR, as well as Condé Nast recently investing $20m in Farfetch, further emphasises the power of the content/ commerce blend.