UTweet! from Uniqlo. Very cool.

Put in your @name on Twitter and see what it does. Very nicely done.

http://www.uniqlo.com/utweet/

GAP: Turning shopping on its head

Isn’t this brilliant? I thought so. It’s from a few months back now but no they aren’t a client, lets get that out of the way first.

To announce and promote their customer loyalty programme Sprize, the GAP store  in Vancouver, BC completely flipped everything upside down and adhering to their tagline rather nicely of turning shopping on its head. This I like.  So all of the mannequins, displays and signs were flipped, as well as some cars and a hot dog stand outside of the store. Brilliant.

It seems to me like a clever customer retention tool and keeping those existing customers happy. I think its only open in Canada at the moment but they can sign up for a free Sprize account at participating Gap stores for an opportunity to collect SprizeMoney. Put simply, if you buy a shirt at £25 and within 45 days it goes down in price then you get credited to your account the difference. Now thats something I’d sign up to for sure. Isn’t it annoying when you buy something full price for it to be discounted some weeks later?

This is smart because the idea / hope is that people will return to GAP more often to see what they can get for their Sprizemoney and undoubtedly pick up a few more purchases than they had intended. Potentially increasing footfall and volume of purchases.

Nice.

Via PSFK and Suite 101

Wal-Mart Concocts Fake Community Group to Gain Chicago Support

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Proving that blog comments can be just as invaluable as they are insipid, Chicagoist scribe Kevin Robertson unearthed a potentially nefarious Wal-Mart plot in his hometown. After a certain commenter by the name of “Chatham” began regularly taking issue with Wal-Mart opponents on various Robertson posts about the brand’s attempt to enter the Chicago retail market, the author decided to take a closer look at who this character was.

Robertson traced the URL attached to Chatham’s comments back to a community group called “Our Community, Our Choice”, which seemed to sincerely support a Wal-Mart opening in the area. On the bottom of their site, the group states that it’s “proudly supported by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce”, which Wal-Mart happens to be a member of. Robertson also traced the IP address on Chatham’s comments back to Serafin and Associates, a Chicago consulting firm that Wal-Mart retained to manage its Chicago PR.

After doing a little digging and getting nowhere with Wal-Mart flack, Robertson finally interviewed Chicagoland’s Government Relations Director Michael Mini. While admitting that Serafin was involved in strategy sessions and that “Our Community, Our Choice” was “part of our advocacy effort to gain support”, Mini was basically struggling for words when asked if he knew Serafin’s IP address was being used to comment on blogs. In fact, the guy couldn’t even give a straight answer as to whether or not he was actually from Chicago.

Robertson says:

“While Wal-Mart certainly has the right make its case to Chicago, the way they’ve gone about this – creating a fake community group that purports to represent a community’s residents and interests – is sneaky and underhanded. If what they have to offer Chicago is such a great deal, why did they need to go through the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to set up a bogus grassroots group?”

This is all technically speculation since Wal-Mart hasn’t come forth to cop to any such travshamockery, but should we be so shocked if it is 100% true?

Words fail me. “Amazing” like @whatleydude rightly says.

Big Al’s Dixons Advertising Parody..

You know you’re campaign is a success when it’s being ripped off. This little number is great, following in Dixons footsteps and rather funny it is too.

Good idea and well timed. The only thing I wondered, when was creativer ever a word?

Dixons Parody

Heralding a new era of social gaming..

I noticed this rather bullish full page advert from Microsoft in a recent issue of MCV and it struck me that we’re now entering in to a new era of social gaming. The potential is limitless.

Before it’s even available for gamers to try out today, the functionality with Twitter and Facebook on the 360 is being talked up, and talked up it should. This cannot be underestimated. It’s bringing social networking in to your living room and on your TV.  It’s also a huge USP for the Xbox 360 in it’s ongoing and bloody battle against the Playstation 3. The launch of the PS3 Slim was timely met by Microsoft with a price cut of their own and puts the ball back in Sony’s court.

For social networking to now be a selling point on a games console shows how far it’s come. This is great news for Facebook and Twitter (perhaps more so for Twitter) because it takes it to another level, that bit more mainstream. Everyone uses Facebook, Twitter is still a nice communications tool. It might help more people understand it and ‘get’ it.

Little is known how they are going to look on your TV screen and how they are going to connect to your gaming experience and whilst I hope my feeds are not going to be spammed by friends who have just gained achievement X on game X, it shows that gaming is no longer something that’s done by a stereotypically aged male in a darkened room. They are now the entertainment hubs, in your living room and providing fun for all the family.

Social Gaming

My take on Snow Leopard for the BBC.

I was asked by the nice people over at the Beeb what my thoughts were on Snow Leopard after getting a copy on release. In a nutshell, I alluded to the fact that it’s an evolutionary but not revolutionary step forward. If the wheel ain’t broke then there’s no point in majorly fixing it. They’ve further refined the already nicely oiled and fully functioning wheel I should say, with some good old fashioned elbow grease.

You can check out the article here.

Excerpt below screen grabbed.

BBC News

Blurring the on and offline worlds further

From humble beginnings back in 2002, ASOS, formerly known as As Seen On Screen have become quite the powerhouse in the online fashion world. One person I spoke to about this remarked that it was like the Heat magazine of fashion, always on the pulse of celebrity culture and reasonably inexpensive. I thought ASOS was a bit bigger than Heat as an entity but it was a good analogy. They are, I believe, the largest independent online fashion and beauty retailer. It fits though with the similar type of target, aimed primarily at fashion forward 16-34 year olds, the site attracts approx 5.3 million unique visitors a month with over 2 million registered users.

Here’s a perhaps unknown fact for you, the company was started by the great-grandson of the founder of the one time major UK high street tailor chain Austin Reed. An early indication even, that it was going to be sticking around!

What got me thinking about all this was the eye catching advert in the London Paper tonight (6th July) and the transition from being strictly online only to now doing a few things offline too. The bright colours and really stand out typography meant that you literally couldn’t miss it. I wondered whether ASOS had done something like this before in print or whether it was a first? Apart from their own magazine, I don’t think I’ve seen many other offline print initiatives, granted I may have missed them!

photo

Why now? Well, it would seem that heavy high street discounting and unemployment among younger shoppers is likely to slow the meteoric growth of ASOS according to a recent Retail Week article. “Job insecurity has to be a worry and I suspect that people are holding back.” said the Chief Executive, Nick Robertson.

“Clearly much tougher comparables are being faced and there is now some evidence to suggest that the rate of growth in online sales has begun to moderate.” he continued. Is that the honey moon period over then? Looks like that dreaded R word is only now starting to bite with ASOS, impressive going.

One thing I didn’t know was that they recently secured brands such as Mango and Gap to sell online, rapidly diversifying further along with adding maternity clothes, childrenswear and limited run collections. When the chief exec said back in 2007 that he wanted ASOS to be the Amazon of the fashion world, he looks to be getting his wish and predicting the future with a consummate skill that only Mystic Meg could be proud of.

I wonder, if they ramped up their print productions and went on an assault against your weekly/monthly celeb fashion titles, would things turn full circle and start to cannibalise the Heat’s of the world? Would it even be viable? Not sure they could keep up with the changing of trends if they were to produce the magazine any more frequently.

Will be interesting to see whether this is the start of a prolonged offline campaign to try and pique waning customer spending and if it has the required impact.

#Amazonfail and a coincidental job advert

This post was originally going to be entitled ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ and simply put up the image below but felt like it deserved a bit more than that..

Reading this is probably the best place to start.. then come right back..

I’ve been keeping half an eye over the weekend on the steadily building #Amazonfail which is incidentally the top trending topic on Twitter and there are this minute more mentions than even Easter. (For an example of it’s talkability factor, in the past hour there’s been a further 700+ mentions since I carried out the original search.)

Amazon PR Week Job Posting

It’s starting to also garner mainstream coverage now as the traditional press catches up but it is something as far as I know started on Twitter and then made it’s way through the blogosphere shortly after.

What’s happened since then? #Amazonfail was being mentioned 4 times a second barely an hour after the first tweet. A petition was started (which over 15,000 people have signed) a Google Bomb took place, and no I formerly had no idea what one of them was either but it sounds pretty damaging. A Facebook group ‘Boycott Amazon’ has been started. A poll was created with the question being ‘Can Amazon redeem/repair their reputation after #amazonfail?’ A list has popped up featuring all the affected titles – here. Some internet hackers are claiming it’s all their doing whilst the names and numbers of the Board of Directors at Amazon HQ have been published. The CTO has been also been ‘unmasked’ (and remains quiet on the whole debacle). Clearly, this is an issue that’s not going to just disappear overnight.

I’ve rounded up a few posts below. One question that everyone at one stage appeared to be asking was do Amazon have a PR manager in the UK or otherwise to deal with freak happenings like this? The advertisement to my right that I coincidentally spotted in the back of the most recent issue of PR Week would suggest otherwise. I put up the picture on Twitpic and soon after @girlonetrack (an affected publisher) retweeted it to her followers.

A few questions for you..

Do you think this is going to affect Amazon’s reputation at all? Has their silence thus far helped or hindered the situation? What do you think their response should be?

Roundup –

Blogs and Twitter coin Amazonfail by Wall Street Journal

Amazon feel the web’s wrath by Zoe Margolis

Amazon sees censorship decisions magnified through the social web magnifying glass by Becky McMichael

Amazonfail – Easter PR Disaster by Matt Churchill

Amazon = FAIL by Alas, a Blog

#Amazonfail – Timeline of WTF by Anastacia

Amazon Follies by Mark Probst

AmazonFAIL discussion thread at Metafilter

Amazonfail: A call to boycott Amazon by Edward Champion

Amazonfail – Malice or Bumble by Jessica Gottlieb

Amazon has removed it’s customer based reporting of books by Brutal Honesty

Amazon blames a glitch by Los Angeles Times

Mobile phones are the most searched for consumer electronics product; Apple the top brand

Below is a guest posting on the Hitwise blog by Richard Seymour, their UK intelligence analyst and resident gadget expert.

I found the below a pretty interesting read so hope Hitwise don’t mind me reposting. The hot consumer electronics list is full of insights so the webinar linked to below is a recommended click.

We have developed a tool to analyse the consumer electronics search data – The Hitwise Hot Consumer Electronics List. For the most recent week’s data (week ending 14/03/09), we can see that mobile phones are the most searched for products online, accounting for almost 30% of all consumer electronics searches. The top phone is consistently the Apple iPhone, with approximately 1 in 12 mobile phone searchers currently searching for all variations of the iPhone. The iPhone has so far only been surpassed on the odd week or two during the launches of new phones. For example, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic which launched on 23rd January 2009, took top spot during w\e 14th Feb, picking up 6.6% of all mobile phone searches. However it fell back to second spot the following week, where it remains with 4.7% of all mobile searches.

Mobile_phones_video_Games_computers_software_televisions_cameras_game_consoles_mp3_players_sat_navs_toys_hobbies_hitwise.png

1 in 10 searches are for video games – over twice as many as for games consoles in seventh place – with Resident Evil 5 the most searched for video game last week. Computers and software sit in third and fourth places, and televisions are the fifth most searched for gadget with 4.5% of all searches last week. Cameras, Mp3 players, Satellite Navigation systems, -dominated by TomTom – and Toys complete the top 10 most searched for consumer electronics product types.

Lego is the top Toys and Hobbies brand, accounting for almost 1 in 8 Toys and Hobbies searches. However, the Danish company doesn’t make it into our list of the overall top 20 most searched for consumer electronics brands. These are highlighted in the treemap below, which shows the most popular brands in the Hitwise Consumer Electronics List. The size of the box represents its relative size to the top 20, with the top 10 represented by their logos.

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We can see that Apple leads the pack, with 12% of all branded searches – almost twice as many as Nokia. As we saw above, Apple’s iPhone sits ahead of Nokia’s phones in the mobile phone market, but it is iTunes and their iPods that really sets the company apart from the rest of market in terms of searches. In the top 10, Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic all compete amongst multiple product ranges (most notably televisions), whereas Dell and HP share their involvement in the computers and printers categories. As we can see, the Hot Consumer Electronics List allows us to compare brand share amongst brands that would never normally be compared based on their niche product ranges, such as Blackberry, Dyson, TomTom and Nikon.

Another great use of the tool is to identify and gauge interest in new products, brands and fast-moving product areas. For example, we were able to track the increase in searches for netbooks in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the continued interest in them as more models enter the market. The chart below, made up of portfolios of search terms for netbooks extracted from this consumer electronics search tool, allows us to see that not only is the Samsung NC10 clearly the most searched for netbook, but also that the new Archos 10 has shot from nowhere to be one of the most searched for netbooks, and the 6th most searched for computer overall.

samsung_nc10_acer_aspire_one_archos_10_hp_2133_mini_note_asus_ee_hitwise.png

We have also been able to identify seasonal consumer behaviour. For example, there was a 31% increase in searches for garden products last week, with lawn mowers and especially the Bosch Rotak 34 the products of choice. There was also a 10% increase in searches for vacuum cleaners, lead by the Dyson DC25 as the Spring cleaning bug starts to hit.

The question is, are retailers and manufacturers already optimised for these products as we approach Easter? If you want to know more about the Hot Consumer Electronics List and see how it can help you, we’ve put together a short webinar describing how it works in more detail which you can watch here. If you have any further questions, please feel free to use the comments box below.

Follow Hitwise UK on Twitter.

Will consumers continue to shun the high street in favour of online shops?

So I’m taking a bit of a diversion away from the small, friendly, local pub that I call Twitter for one post and trying out something new. I wanted to see what the world was like outside (great view!) so if you’re expecting a dose of social media musings, come back again soon 😉

As part of my work related media diet, along with NMA, Marketing and PR Week, I subscribe to Revolution magazine. It’s undergone a bit of an overhaul recently, it looks fantastic and it’s always got some thought provoking articles. One of which forms the crux of this post. The covers in the last few months really have been beautiful. I actually now look forward to my copy dropping through the letter box once a month.

I’ve always maintained an interest in all things retail working for Argos and HP in their Marketing depts along with dabbling a bit in the running your own business thing when I was younger, so it was an interesting read when reading “Will consumers continue to shun the high street in favour of online shops?” in Revolution. If you missed it I thought I’d republish it here for your viewing pleasure. Before I do that though..

What do you think? Is retail as we know it here to stay? What’s next?

Without further ado, it goes a bit like this.. All credit to Revolution, P22 of the February issue of course..

Bargain hungry shoppers flocked online towards the end of last year, helping retailers including House of Fraser, Next and Marks & Spencer record a rise in e-commerce sales in the run-up to Christmas. Will online shopping continue to boom at the expense of the high street? They put the question out to four individuals. As an FYI, before talk leads to the results, bear in mind that this was published in Revolution, a magazine that’s tagline is ‘Smarter digital marketing’. So when 3 out of the 4 respondents said Yes to the question in the article title, it is perhaps a bit of a one sided argument. Would have been good to hear a bit more from the other side.

1. Andrew Ellison, Digital Controller, Schuh (Yes)

This year will be the first time online retailers will have no guarantee of achieving sales increases. Most online shoppers still use credit cards, and the issuers are increasing their interest rates, no matter what the Bank of England does.

People think online shopping is all about price. It isn’t. Those online retailers that compete on price will find the high street nipping at their heels as clearance sales and all-year promotions become commonplace. Those online retailers that compete on selection and availability will continue to boom as the high street merchandisers trim their ranges of all products that have limited appeal and low margin.

People will still pay for full price for a product they really want – particuarly if they can’t get it at the local shopping centre. (Supply and demand? Simple)

We are all passionate about certain categories of goods, from top end electronics to Sienna Miller’s handbag. Online will soon be the only place for them.

2. Robin Goad, Research Director, Hitwise (Yes)

Online will steal shoppers, but the biggest beneficiaries will be web-savvy high-street retailers. Spending shifted online last Christmas, but more of it is going to familiar names than internet start-ups. During December, the websites of high-street retailers received 32% more visits than their online-only rivals, and this gap will widen in 2009.

Thanks to the recession, consumers are turning to the internet to save money; discount voucher searches have doubled; consumer advice sites have flourished; and the supermarkets are thriving.

M&S experienced its busiest ever day online when it reduced prices by 20% in November. It is the combination of online and offline that has helped brands such as M&S, Argos and Tesco thrive on the web. While a presence on the high street helps, particularly during sales season, the strongest asset for a mult-channel retailer is a trusted brand.

3. David Walmsley, Head of Web Selling, John Lewis Direct (No)

On Christmas day, a strange thing happened. Johnlewis.com had lots of visits and browsing, and a pleasing amount of sales. But conversion was weaker. Customers were researching online before visiting one of our stores.

For us it is genuinely not about increasing sales in one particular channel. The challenge is to keep up with our customers expectations. In 2009 therefore we expect to build on the success of cross-channel propositions, such as Deliver to Store service. We also expect to see an increase in customers researching online before heading in-store, and vice versa.

Our aim is to provide a multi-channel shopping experience (bla bla marketing spiel) that flexes to meet demand so customers only ever deal with one John Lewis. We therefore believe that the future for the high street is a vibrant one. (But then they kinda have to say that, right?)

4. Fadi Shuman, E-commerce Director, Pod1 (Yes)

This online trend will continue for the next few years, and shopping on the high street will never be the same again. Last Christmas, a record number of people experienced the convenience of shopping online, and they will spend ever more of their cash online this year and next.

The fact that websites are getting more secure, coupled with more intuitive interfaces, faster connections and a plethora of other improvements to the internet, means an even more convenient shopping experience that just keeps getting better.

In the next few years, the high street will evolve rather than completely disappear. The new wave of shops will be less about a pure shopping experience and more about a social experience where you can purchase goods while being entertained.