Beat the retail blues


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This is the season when retailers publish their trading results for the Christmas and New Year season; it has made for gloomy reading. HMV, the UK music retailer, has announced the closure of 60 stores across the UK due to disappointing trading figures, and it is not the only retailer that has suffered from a combination of poor weather and the increasing trend for consumers to spend on-line.

But there are those brands that are bucking the trend and reporting their best ever results. One such brand is Burberry, having recently reported a 50 percent growth in like-for-like sales for 2010 and a bumper Christmas. So why the difference? Maybe because this brand invested in improving the experience offered in-store and on-line whilst its competitors were busy cutting costs. In November 2009, Burberry launched a website called and invited customers to upload images of themselves wearing the brand’s iconic trench coats. Within the first week 400,000 people from 191 countries had done just that. Within nine months the site had been visited 9 million times. Delighted with these results, the brand started a Facebook page and now has five million followers. This traditional British brand has embraced the opportunities offered by digital marketing and social media and made its on-line experience just as distinctive and ‘branded’ as its in-store experience.

The ‘Twitter Effect’

In June 2010, RightNow published a landmark report: ‘The Socialisation of Customer Experiences’¹. It found that in April 2010, Britons were spending 884 million hours on-line, and of that, 23% was accounted for by social networks and blogs. There is no doubt that we are now beyond the ‘tipping point’ in terms of the importance of e-commerce and social media to organisations.

Perhaps that is why a recent Forrester forecast predicts that spending on interactive marketing will reach $55 billion by 2014². This will be driven by spend on social and mobile marketing that will see compound annual growth rates of 34% and 27% respectively through 2014.

There is no doubt that marketers are excited at the potential for reaching new audiences in new ways and positively influencing consumer word of mouth on a grand scale – the ‘Twitter effect’. However, the reality may not be as seductive as the hype. As Google guru Avinash Kaushik tweeted: ‘Social media is like teen sex. Everyone wants to do it. Nobody knows how. When finally done there is surprise it’s not better.’

¹The Socialisation of Customer Experiences UK. RightNow 2010.
²The State of Customer Experience 2010. Forrester.

BOLD - how to be brave in business and win

We have just completed two years of research for our new book ‘BOLD – how to be brave in business and win’ ( It tells the story of 14 brands that are redefining their markets through the delivery of dramatically different customer experiences (you can download the executive summary ahead of the book’s release in April). Many of the brands we studied – for example AirAsia X, O2, Burberry, Zappos and Chilli Beans – have differentiated through creating engaging experiences for their customers on-line just as much as off-line. How have they managed to do this? By having a holistic view of the customer experience and using a systematic process for ensuring it is consistent across channels.

We have found that using a customer experience model really helps our clients to approach this integration in a systematic way. If you are interested in knowing more about the approach smith+co uses, please click on the following link to download an article that outlines the steps.

Creating customer experiences in a digitally connected world

To accompany the launch of the book of ‘BOLD – how to brave in business and win’, we have also developed an iPad app which is FREE to download from the App Store?, just search for ‘BOLD business’ or click on the logo below. The app will enable you to compare your organisation with the BOLD brands and comparison companies and will offer suggestions for how you can become bolder. Based on your profile it will even recommend those chapters which are most relevant for you. You can then purchase these individually and access them within the app so you can start reading straight away – no need for additional downloads!

Available on the App Store
Apple and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. iPad is a trademark of Apple Inc. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Shaun Smith
Shaun Smith is the founder of Smith+Co the leading UK based Customer Experience consultancy. Shaun speaks and consults internationally on the subject of the brand purpose and customer experience. Shaun's latest book 'On Purpose- delivering a branded customer experience people love' was co-written with Andy Milligan.


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