Magazine article Marketing

Online Companies Hit the High Street

Magazine article Marketing

Online Companies Hit the High Street

Article excerpt

Web companies are realising that traditional field marketing techniques can maximise their e-tail potential.

After a year in which the technology sector in general, and internet firms in particular, took a real hammering, the value of dotcoms is being assessed more rationally.

Ever more commentators are concluding that the business model most likely to prosper on the web is the bricks-and-clicks model, combining the accessibility of the web with the knowledge that there's a high street outlet you can visit to seek redress should things go wrong.

Online bank Egg might not have been too pleased with recent reports that it planned to open a 'skinny' branch network, but it has refused to rule out the possibility.

In fact, the turnaround has gone even further. Not only are long-established high street brands leveraging years of trust and brand equity on the web, but internet brands are going out of their way to prove there is more to their company than a web site.

And in their efforts to prove their real-world credentials, they are turning to traditional field marketing techniques to help.

On November 16, TV presenter Gail Porter openedYahoo!'s first high street presence, in Kensington. The company also opened outlets in Birmingham, Manchester and Brighton.

The shops, which stayed open for one month, were designed to show shoppers struggling through the crowded high streets how relaxing, by contrast, online shopping can be.

The shops, which sported high-speed web access terminals, sofas and a free in-store cafe, were created, kitted out and managed by brand experience consultancy RPM.

"We wanted to give Yahoo! the chance to reach out and touch people on the high street," says RPM account director Tim Hunt." Once you walked through the door, you were in a haven of calm, where we took your bag and coat, gave you a cup of tea or coffee, sat you on a comfy sofa and you were still shopping--but you didn't feel like you were shopping."

The challenge in creating the stores, says Hunt, was to take the Yahoo! brand out of its two-dimensional environment and make it a three-dimensional reality.

"For Yahoo! ,that meant being fun, easy, reliable, current, and everything that makes up the brand's personality," he says. "So we employed staff who were fun, young, vibrant people, made sure there was nothing cheesy in the shop and that everything was relaxed and worked."

But while the shops may have given consumers confidence that there is more to the company than a web address, Yahoo! UK and Ireland brand manager Lindsey Biggart insists it was not the primary objective of the exercise.

"A lot of what we were doing was to generate press stories by taking groups such as stressed-out executives or pregnant women and allowing them to shop online in a stress-free environment," she says. "It was a good way of bringing all the disciplines in our marketing campaign together."

Between October 6 and December 3, the face-to-face division of Carlson Marketing Group carried out a field marketing campaign for beeb.com, the BBC's online shopping portal.

The work targeted what Carlson's group account director Annlouise Cawley calls "middle Britain -- the sort of people who have a PC and whose kids use the internet, but who don't use it themselves because they feel a little bit intimidated by it."

The focus of the campaign was a beeb.com bus that toured the country, visiting major shopping centres in 13 cities nationwide.

The bus was equipped with six Apple i-Macs and four i-Books for web access and staffed by a team of internet experts, who offered advice to consumers surfing the web and shopping online for the first time.

It was supported by a number of temporary 'satellite' bus stops at strategic high street locations to drive people to the bus. Field marketing staff at the bus stops handed out internet shopping booklets and beeb. …

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