We are beginning to see brands collapse much more frequently, but why?
Although we are living in a digital-first era, many brands are stuck in more traditional ways. They are struggling to keep up with the times and the ongoing effects of COVID-19, particularly when it comes to the way in which they communicate with customers.
Here are some of the biggest failures and successes over recent times and what brands can do to stay at the very top of their game and build brand love.
Is it time to say goodbye to the high street?
Founded in 1903, Arcadia own some of the biggest brands on the high street. From Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins to Miss Selfridge and Wallis, the high street giant has now gone into administration because of their failure to meet the newfound needs of their consumers.
The brand’s customers will be wondering how they have fallen subject to such hardship. Whilst the businesses appear popular, this doesn’t mean that they are safe and stable.
Owned by Sir Philip Green after he acquired the company in 2002, Arcadia employs over 13,000 people worldwide and is, or was, made up of eight of the high street’s most popular fashion brands.
Putting Topshop and Miss Selfridge up against online competitors such as boohoo and PrettyLittleThing, there are noticeable differences in more ways than one.
Traditional high-street brands are sticking to their legacy branding and their roots of bricks and mortar, making them slow to digitise their brands. It is no coincidence that these traditional retailers have seen such a drastic loss in terms of sales and market share compared to the booming online fashion brands.
There are continuous changes with the expectations of the customer and the way they choose to shop, including the where, when and how – day or night. They no longer want to go out of their way, spending their own time and money venturing out to shops when they can receive the same product and service by ordering online.
The cost of a market leading website is significantly less than the upkeep of a flagship store, and when brands begin to realise this, they will work smarter and much more efficiently increasing both their revenue and profits.
And to prove that, boohoo group have bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55m. However, they will not be taking on the high-street stores, allowing the brand to focus on their online operations, becoming a digital-first business. The acquisition of Debenhams will also allow boohoo group to venture into other categories including beauty, sport and homeware, enabling them to grow as leaders in the industry.
Now, Topshop and Topman have joined online retail giant, ASOS, as part of a £295m deal, along with Miss Selfridge and HIIT. Closing down all stores and moving them to online-only, this provides even more evidence that high street stores are dying out, and that ecommerce continues to rule the roost.
The demise of Arcadia Group
In 2005, Arcadia recorded almost $410 million in profits, but just over 10 years later, the tables had completely turned. Their operating profit was down from $270 million in 2016 to $155.86 million just a year later.
Arcadia missed a truly pivotal opportunity to digitise their brands, continuing their growth and success. However, when competing with boohoo and PrettyLittleThing who are entirely digital-first, this has put them more than just a few steps behind.
Because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, both brands and consumers have been thrust into an era that has been forced into early digitisation. It could be said that the inevitable tide of digitisation has moved forward nine years in the last nine months due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The demise of Arcadia group is proof that businesses must keep up with the times to remain relevant. And between Debenham’s and Arcadia Group, hundreds of years of history disappeared in a matter of days.
Adapting to the newfound needs of consumers, considering convenience and customer experience are all paramount to creating a successful empire.
Consequently, people haven’t wanted to go to a physical store, but still require quick and easy shopping and returns, as well as a point of difference.
However, rather than reaching the community within just 15 miles of the flagship store, a website can reach all consumers on a global scale, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 365 days of the year.
And all of this comes without regulation such as trading hours, holidays and Sunday trading rules, so why are brands not adapting this approach? Put simply, they are invested in an outmoded practice of “shopping” and fear highlighting this very fact by their actions.
But rather than “grabbing the nettle” and securing the future of the business for the next 100 years, they watch as businesses suffer year on year until collapse.
The rise of online fashion retailers
While it may seem as if it is not, ecommerce is actually still in its infancy, and with multichannel industries moving as fast as they are, it’s crucial for brands and businesses to keep up.
PrettyLittleThing, boohoo and Nasty Gal are all fine examples of utilising the current climate and continuing to move forwards. These brands are ahead of the game by taking all that was good about Arcadia, but have implemented the strategies in a modern, 21st century way.
Having started in the industry less than 15 years ago, boohoo has gone on to create huge brands which have all become synonymous with the fashion industry. As well as owning PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal and MissPap, boohoo also operate Karen Millen and Coast.
All relatively new brands, boohoo group closed a six-month period of 2020 with a net cash balance of £344.9m, compared to £207.3m just a year earlier. The group’s profit before tax has continued to rise 51% year on year.
Not following the traditional retail route, the group focuses on ecommerce rather than the high-street. Ecommerce isn’t just an alternative way to shop, but the modern way to shop – offering consumers a source of convenience which they now expect when shopping.
And both ASOS and boohoo’s stance on this has only been solidified following the acquisition of Debenhams’ and many of Arcadia’s digital assets.
Online retail is in the hands, or pockets, of all consumers. Their phones allow them to shop online and make purchases 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, therefore brands must utilise this by taking their stores online.
Influencers are the new A-listers
We’ve also seen the effectiveness of influencer marketing and the positive impact this can have on increasing both brand awareness and sales. The brands within boohoo group are renowned for their influencer marketing activity and have worked with some of the biggest names in the industry.
Amelia Neate, senior manager at Influencer Matchmaker explains how influencer marketing can benefit businesses.
“By working with an influencer, brands are able to maximise their brand reach and potential sales. Influencers have the ability to impact the purchasing decisions of consumers, with 49% of people relying on social media and influencers for recommendations. And, with the industry growing by 50% year on year since 2016, it is only going to increase in popularity.”
Philip Green had great working relationships with A-list celebrities such as Kate Moss. And whilst he got it right at the time by understanding the power of celebrity and talent, he didn’t keep up with the times by changing his approach to online influencer partnerships, nor did he understand the growing value and reach of those associations.
The digitisation of brands: don’t miss the boat
Many of these traditional brands expect loyalty. But loyalty is built on the repeated engagement from the brand, and if they aren’t present in a consumer's newfound day-to-day activities, they are simply forgotten.
Stepping out of their comfort zone and embracing this new digital age is what will thrust brands forwards in terms of both profits and brand value, and there is still time for them to get on board.
When it comes to traditional advertising and digitisation, the end goal is always the same, however it’s the journey that differs. By utilising a digital-first approach, businesses are using a better mechanism to achieve their goal of increased sales via easier access and convenience. And when they don’t, they are simply becoming an obstacle of their own business.
Businesses should now be using the effects of 2020 to their advantage, seeing it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. And although consumers are shopping online, they still expect to receive a memorable experience.
Luxury packaging company Delta Global, work with retailers to provide consumers with an experience from the moment their parcel arrives at the door. From creating multiuse packaging to a glamorous and luxurious at-home shopping experience, this is the level of expectation that many consumers now have, which is also being replicated online.
Social media as well as other online channels, is still relatively young. One of the biggest platforms within the industry, Instagram, is only 10 years old and with the continuous introduction of brand-new features, it is vital for brands to stay up to date and adapt.
Instagram is the predominant focus for brand advertising and influencer marketing campaigns, but brands should utilise the channels that best suit their brand.
High-street stores such as Next have introduced long-term celebrity and influencer ambassadors, including Emma Willis and Marvin Humes. New Look and River Island have also began working with some of the industry’s biggest social media influencers.
Influencers work with brands and become an active representative for them, their products and their values. Consumers look for a personal connection with a brand, and by pairing themselves with relatable influencers, they are able to provide just that.
And personal care brand Dove, recently worked alongside a number of influencers within the entertainment industry as part of their #ArmsUp campaign, suggesting that Dove will empower women, too.
How businesses can keep up
Businesses need to embrace digitisation rather than reject it, as by doing so, they are failing to communicate effectively to their consumers, and even worse, ignore their shopping needs and expectations.
It is no longer simply a case of being able to hold on to tradition. The speed of change in the business environment is now faster than ever. Businesses will either embrace the change or die out.
And ecommerce in particular plays a huge part in this. Ecommerce needs to provide an experience for customers, and that isn’t as easy as just having a website.
Consumers have access to everything they need in the palm of their hand, so why aren’t brands using technology to better their business?
This isn’t just for retail. All industries need to move forward and turn their attention to digitisation.
Here at Champions (UK) plc, we can provide everything you need to take your business to the next level, ensuring success.
We are a strategic 360 solution provider with six core pillars of expertise, being brand strategy, creative, digital, communications, events and talent. We have the ability to take you through the full cycle – from brand strategy and development, through to creating impactful messages for your brand and then educating the marketplace about these unique selling points, consistently, across a fully multi-channel approach.
We focus on industry insights and intelligence, applying strategy, insight and expertise to ensure successful and impressive results.
So, is your business going to maximise from the benefits of the digital revolution or are you going to remain on the brink of extinction?
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