What can we learn from 2012?

As this is my last blog of 2012 I thought it was worth casting an eye over the year, and thinking about what has changed in the last 12 months. It’s certainly been a year of ups and downs: the wonderful goodwill around the royal events and the Olympics were certainly key positives; whilst the downs will have to include the continuing economic issues. I can’t help wondering if there isn’t a business lesson in there for us all – the way that positive experiences can persuade us to put aside our concerns for a moment.

I’ve talked before about how bricks & mortar stores need to create the experiential side of the consumer experience – touching / feeling products, seeing them in action, trying them on, and perhaps even being drawn into branded experiences through the marketing. Encouraging consumers into the stores, and encouraging them to shop requires something better than just shoving products on shelf. Perhaps it requires the equivalent of the atmosphere created by special events – such as we’ve seen this year, but also Christmas, Easter, and even brand sponsored activities.

There’s no doubt that retailers and brands a like need to make more sense of the shifting dynamics of shopping in the UK. Recent data from Econsultancy shows that the UK is the top global internet shopping country – £1,083 per person per year vs. £842 in second place Australia. The concern for brands should be around the fact that when consumers choose to shop for FMCG products online they are more functional in their decisions, focusing on price and convenience rather than brand benefits. So the hard work and investment in developing appealing products and packaging are easily overlooked by consumers in a low price mind-set.

This, I would argue, is a key lesson from 2012 to us all. As the internet continues to attract consumers, the bricks & mortar environment needs to be more proactive in persuading consumers there is a great alternative. As the buzz around the wonderful events this year have demonstrated, making an experiential connection with consumers can be hugely effective. The doom-mongers who said the UK would largely ignore the Olympics were firmly proved wrong with the enthusiasm surrounding the torch procession, not to mention the sell-out Paralympics. Create a buzz and enthusiasm can gain a momentum of its own.

So, I hope you all have a very happy Christmas, and when you get back to work in the New Year, have a think about how engaging environments can be used to persuade consumers to spend money on your products.