smith+co on
customer experience
Shaun Smith
  • By Shaun Smith
  • Mar 07 2011

Beat the retail blues

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.