Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Friday - The Farce Awakens

So that was the first full-scale Black Friday that the UK has ever experienced.  And what an event it was.

Stories of in-store wars, bargains snatched from the hands of those who waited patiently in line for hours and police arrests for fighting at 24 hour supermarkets have been written about and told over the last few days. The British shopping masses have been shown as a brawling uncultured rabble, who would happily trample others underfoot just to get their hands on a discounted television for themselves... that they probably would not have purchased anyway.

Previous pre-Christmas sales have now been overshadowed by the dark lord of post-Thanksgiving sales bonanzas that we have willingly inherited from the USA...without any of the thanks or the giving we are supposed to have at this time of year.

If this is the beginning of a new saga in retail... then part of me wished I lived a long time ago and far away.

Friday, November 28, 2014

#blackfridayfail - eCommerce sites struggle under high volumes

So, Black Friday fever really looks to be kicking in, as a number of websites seem to either be having issues or are down entirely.


As of writing, the multi-channel catalogue-based retailer claims to be "experiencing a very high volume of visitors"

River Island
Apparently failing to cope with the pressure of the pre-Christmas bargain hunters, the fashion retailer seems to be having a few issues delivering a homepage.


Although this site is up right now, at certain points late last night the UK's biggest retailer was only able to display a waiting page

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What does Black Friday mean to the UK?

It seems to me that the use of 'Black Friday' as a retail promotional tool is now everywhere in the UK. From Glasgow to Manchester and Plymouth to London it seems to have sprung up from almost nowhere just few years ago into a few days of serious high street and online discounting.

But why is it especially this year that a lot of UK retailers have embraced an American holiday?

Here's a few suggestions:

1. The high street needs to stimulate sales
Following a mild autumn, a lot of people have not raced out to the shops in September and October to buy items such as a new Winter wardrobe (if you don't believe me, ask your peers if many have bought a big coat recently).Consequently year on year takings are down across a number of sectors, including clothing.
2. Autumn sales aren't a new thing
Discounting around this time isn't a new concept and many stores have been having 'mid-season sales' for decades. Yes, a lot of retailers have been dropping prices of specific products and ranges in mid-to-late November, it's just that...

3. Black Friday sounds cool
It's good to give something a catchy name and it seems that yes black is indeed the new black.  I suggest the fact that it refers to the day after the US commemorate a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 is pretty irrelevant to the average Brit.

4. The UK is becoming more and more American-ized
As reflected in: the recent growth in Halloween over this side of the pond, the increase in Seattle style coffee shops that sell huge capacity cups of caffeine and the gradual use of "Tuxedo" (an American club that adopted the use of the black suit and tie) over the "Dinner Jacket".

5. The Internet is reducing cultural barriers
I first noticed the use of 'Black Friday' on about a decade ago, when just like today, I couldn't find anything interesting to buy on the site. The increasing use of global eCommere sites like Amazon, eBay and the like have created a boundary-less society that is only too happy to embrace different retailing concepts.

Which leads me to a slightly cynical further idea... Could it be that Black Friday is just another ploy adopted by savvy retailers across the globe to get rid stuff that would never have shifted at full price anyway?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What does Direct Traffic actually mean?

Website Analytics (e.g. Google Analytics) provide a lot of insight into digital user behaviour, including what keywords they are typing into search engines, what pages they are arriving on and the locations they are coming from.

However all too often I have seen visitors coming into a site as Direct Traffic pretty much ignored or understated as a source. For example if all other digital marketing sources come to 80% and analytics says Direct is 30%, I've heard clients say “Oh, let’s just make Direct 20% and show how good my paid for efforts are"… rather than looking at why a site is showing 110% inbound traffic.

But I think we all need to stop and reconsider this approach, take another look at direct sources of visitors and assess the value that they bring.

Although we tend to take this as "the visitors who type the URL direct into the browser" - this is not the full picture. It is also includes:
- bookmarked visits
- those campaigns that are incorrectly tagged
- those visits where the referrer data is not available (e.g. those coming from an https source, such as a secure site - which may even be your own site itself )

Note: There is even the suggestion on some forums that Google Images has been a source of direct traffic because it creates visits from links that are not traceable.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Importance of Keywords in Digital Marketing

Keywords have a huge influence across many areas of online marketing. They help to drive the correct traffic from organic positions in search engines, which in-turn need to be optimised through SEO efforts (white hat only of course). Keywords also form the fundamentals of any pay-per-click activity done across Google, Yahoo/Bing, etc.

Keywords therefore have a big impact wherever they are used online and you should make sure your keyword strategy is:

1. Planned in advance of any major digital work, taking care to analyse and understand the terms and phases your target audience is really using (not just those your client thinks they should use)

2. Incorporated in your onsite efforts, such as: Page titles, Meta Description and body copy (including semantic headings & structure)

3. Communicated to other parties, such as your PR company and external copy writing / translation agencies.

4. Reviewed and updated on a regular basis, to ensure you are still getting the required traffic and conversions. This is an evolving situation after all, where new sites and efforts are always changing.