Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Denial Is No Defence

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Denial Is No Defence

Article excerpt

Marketers who fail to acknowledge the bigger strategic picture of online retail will pay the price.

Prime minister Jim Callaghan might not have uttered the words 'Crisis, what crisis?' in 1979 (that was a headline in The Sun), but they captured the sense of detachment from reality that the Labour government seemed to have. The Winter of Discontent was in full swing, and the government simply seemed unaware of the parlous state of the economy.

Returning from a summit in the Caribbean and stepping off a plane looking as tanned as colour TV of the day would allow, Callaghan denied anyone outside the UK would 'share the view there is mounting chaos'.

I would be surprised if he wasn't being disingenuous. Nonetheless, it is common for people faced with a problem seemingly insurmountable in its scale or complexity to reject its very existence - what Freud called denial.

Is this what's happening in UK online retail? Three surveys published last week indicate that it could well be.

In the first, Coremetrics found that 25% of marketers are not measuring ROI on their online campaigns, while 23% believe digital marketing creates an information overload. Assuming these are predominantly exclusive groups, that's half of digital marketers who can't get to grips with the data.

The second, by Zeus Technology, indicated that 46% of UK marketing professionals admit they don't know whether they have a solution in place to manage peaks in online web traffic, with 72% saying downtime would be a major problem for their organisation (so 28% don't think it's a problem?).

Finally, the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index reported that online sales were down 1.5% in December. (It turns out this was month on month - sales on 2007 were up 14% - but what worries me about this sort of reporting is that it reinforces low expectations of performance in online businesses.)

Now, let's apply the same considerations to traditional marketing. Do they sound credible or concerning?

1. A quarter of high-street stores do not use their EPOS data to monitor the effectiveness of in-store promotions.

2. High-street retailers are aware that the Christmas sales rush could lead to dangerous overcrowding of their stores and the police advise they will have to close them if this happens. But 50% have no plan in place to deal with this.

3. The market is underdelivering against analysts' expectations. Firms benchmark their performance against the market, rather than against the best.

OK, this last one is not surprising - with sales at online fashion retailer ASOS. …

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