Thursday, 27 December 2012

Multi-Channel Retailing – Threat or Opportunity?

Multi-channel retailing means offering the customer the opportunity to make transactions with one store or business, via different channels, all of which are linked.  These can be offline stores, websites, mobile friendly sites, mobile apps and all allow the same level of service including browsing, buying and returns.  Gone are the days of a single route to market, now the communications from a single brand are multi-faceted.

Where multi-channel retailing is most successful, as in the case of Next, John Lewis and US stores such as Neiman Marcus is when the various routes have been built up from a customer centric point of view, not just offering different ways to shop, but keeping the brand in firm view as one that the customer can trust, wherever they shop from.

Threat or Opportunity is of course a really daft question, as obviously multi channel retailing presents a huge opportunity to all, enabling customers to shop via whatever channel they choose, and the wider the offer, and the more buying options, the greater the gains will be. 

Take Boxing Day, for example, with retailers such as Selfridges and John Lewis seeing record levels of sales, both online and off.  It’s easy to say, ‘ah, but they have all the money to develop both their bricks and mortar stores and online shopping sites’, but consider that they have proved a point;  those offering different ways for people to shop are doing best.

As Andy Street managing director of John Lewis, said: “It’s been a record Christmas for John Lewis, and that’s been between shops and online.

“Customers are using the two absolutely hand-in-glove. We saw it played out this year – the retailers with the best integration between shops and online have done the best.”

My clients tend to be a lot smaller than these huge retailers, but they all embrace the multi-channel approach, recognising that a tiny store in London (or anywhere) can offer its wares to anyone, any how, anywhere in the world with a simple but usable and well designed website which will work on multiple platforms. 

There are few limitations on where you can sell, and those small stores who resolutely keep to offline and complain that online is stealing the market are losing the plot, and their businesses, rapidly.  One of the greatest difficulties is that those who have waited the longest may have left it too late to recover by an online push.

Here’s a article written in 1999, titled The Death of Retail.  As a precursor for 2012 it has a strong vision. Practically clairvoyant.  And seriously worth a read.

Multi-channel retailing is the only way forward.  It is moving exceptionally fast and retailers from small to large need to embrace its potential.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

5 Essentials of Great Taglines

Your tagline or mission statement or strapline (whichever you call it) is the short punchy phrase or sentence that sums you up, and sits somewhere near your logo.  The importance of a great tagline can’t be ignored.  It says who you are in a very few words, and it tells your visitors if they’ve found what they’re looking for instantly.

It’s very easy, when you’re creating your own website and trying to be ‘clever’, to be over clever with this incredibly important piece of your home page real estate.  Let me repeat.  Great taglines are clear.  Very.  Any opacity and the meaning may be lost on everyone who visits your website.

Don’t ever forget that you only have a very few seconds to grab someone’s attention when they arrive at your home page.  2 or 3.  And if they don’t ‘get’ what you’re about almost instantly, you may have lost them.  After all, who has the time?

One of the most important messages I can get over to my clients is that clarity goes hand in hand with web usability. 

Here are 5 essentials of great taglines.

1.   They immediately tell people what they will find on your website
2.   They sum up who you are
3.   They are long enough to inform, but short enough to be scanned
4.   They make you different
5.   They convey a value proposition

Household names can make do without taglines, most websites can’t, make sure yours is lively, punchy and crystal clear.
Come and join me on:

Monday, 17 December 2012

Simple Typos and Punctuation Mistakes to Lose Fast.

I started reading an article about SEO this morning and came across ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ in the first paragraph.  All too easy to do when you’re trying to publish things quickly.

Careless would be more accurate than stupid, but I have to confess that I immediately stopped reading as this is something that everyone needs to concentrate on more; editing, editing and re-editing.

Two mistakes found all too often (and I’ll hold my hand up as well, I’ve done it also) are using ‘your’ as in ‘your car’, instead of ‘you’re’ as in ‘you are’.
and even worse:
‘They’re’ as in ‘they are’
instead of ‘their’ as in ‘it belongs to them’ or ‘there’ as in ‘over there’.

These words all have totally different meanings.  We can accept if someone whose natural language isn’t English makes this kind of mistake (just) but not, surely, if it’s a writer wanting to sound professional about a serious subject.

Having written several books which not only I but my editor edited and re-read several times and still found typos once published I know only too well how easy it is.  And there will always be typos.

But my advice is to read and re-read anything you intend to publish.  And if necessary get someone else to read as well.  And look out for your and you’re and their and they’re and there and whose and who’s and there are far too many more to mention.

Read Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss for more mistakes most of us make. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

How to Market Yourself Without Really Trying

How many times a day do you receive an email from someone and decide that the obvious action for you to take would be to call them?  You look fruitlessly for a telephone number and find nothing, which starts off a frustrating hunt for something that should be totally obvious.

Most of us don’t like to ‘sell’ ourselves, and despite being happy(ish) to sit in front of a TV camera or radio mike or even to stand up and talk to a large group of people we don’t really consider that ‘selling’, and yet of course it is.  But we’re happy to let slip the most obvious trick in the book, that of the email ‘signature’.

Email gives us all a huge opportunity to sell ourselves without really trying, to give our details, website address, graphics, email address and phone number to everyone we come into contact with.  And yet so many don’t use the chance.

Setting up your signature on your emails is a couple of seconds work and it’s well worth doing it properly and right now, making sure that you use the right font and layout to project your brand or style. 

I know what you’re saying…….but what if I don’t want to give them my phone number.  Simple, really, just hit delete.  Or don’t reply.  But make sure that those who you want to be able to contact you easily can do just that.

On another topic, but email related.  Change the subject line when you respond to someone about something specific and different from the original email.  The number of emails I have deleted as a result of an old, out of time subject line is countless. 

We all do things much too fast, particularly with email, and staying on track is the only thing that works in this fast paced virtual online world.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Christmas is Coming - 3 Things to do to your Website Right Now


Christmas is an exceedingly busy time for most retailers (hopefully) and particularly for those online.  In the rush of getting all your products up and the logistics of coping with what is expected to be the busiest Christmas ever this year online – with shoppers expected to spend 4.6bn online in the next two weeks and visits expected to be up on ‘Cyber Monday’ December 3rd, alone, by 36% over last year, the rush is well and truly on.

You, of course, want to be one of the winners this year, not one of the ‘maybe I’ll get it right next year’, so here are three things I recommend that you do to your website TODAY, to be ready for the onslaught.

Astley Clarke Home Page 
1.  Make your home page look inviting and festive.  Change those banners.  Invited visitors clearly into your store to look at those great ideas you have for them this year that are going to make their life easier.  Don’t waste their time, don’t make them search, take them by the hand and lead them straight in from your home page.

2.  Be totally clear about your Christmas services – again lead to a full information page from your home page. 

Your last order dates for Christmas – display this one on your home page
Your delivery options, from standard delivery to next day to ‘we’ll send it round in a cab for you’ (well of course not everyone can offer that one but you know what I mean).
If you offer gift wrap
If you ship internationally

Shout these from the rooftops with a Christmas banner or lead in that is obvious to the eye.  do not expect people to search – who has the time?

Send an email to your subscribers showing them your best selling gifts (not the ones you want get rid of, that won’t entice them in) but those that have a proven click and sales track record.  And also tell them about your services.  Tempt them, treat them, and get them to click through to your website.

And finally, if you’re not already doing this:

Clearly display your ‘this online retailer is to be trusted’ logos on your home page.  Don’t take it for granted, unless you’re a household name, that people will expect you to be a safe place to shop.  Make it obvious with accreditation schemes, awards, and payment card logos.