Retailers have to transform relentlessly to keep pace

Richard Robinson, Managing Partner of new MCA members, the marketing specialist Oystercatchers, is bullish about 2014. “We've seen revenues rise by 30%. It's been a good year.”

Much of this growth has been driven across the retail sector. “The necessity for firms to innovate to respond to the demands of increasingly savvy Digital consumers is driving furious business change. And much of this concerns their marketing propositions.” As Britain emerged from post-2008 doldrums, CFOs started to realise that they would need to invest in Digital to avoid competitive and market-share problems in the future. “Now they are investing wholeheartedly.”

Despite the rapid changes in retail, Richard hasn't seen any evidence of a slowdown. “Retailers know they have to transform, almost relentlessly, to keep pace with a new world driven by technologies and we are seeing a succession of new propositions coming to market. So we're confident that demand for our services will continue to grow.” Richard points out that everyone is modernising. Morissons for example, fairly late to the Digital party, has recently launched an online sales and delivery proposition, and new app. “There are great opportunities still to be had. The catalogue brand Shop Direct has seen triple digit growth in recent times and is now the UK's fourth largest retailer. It has done this through recognising that its target consumers, traditionally in the C&D socio-economic bracket, are increasingly Digitally aware and want to shop differently.”

The challenge for retailers and producers going forward will be to retain brand loyalty and the influence that they have been able to derive from Big Data. “Soon, possibly in the next twelve months, consumers will be in full control of their data. So in order to keep consumer loyalty, brands will need to convert data into value for consumers. And that will mean new innovations and new offerings.” Richard says firms will need to secure market advantage through solving real problems and unmet needs for consumers. He cites Vodafone's success in Egypt as an example. Here they encouraged retailers to provide pay-as-you-go mobile phone credits called ‘Vodafone Fakka’ as a convertible currency to replace the mountains of change high inflation has meant Egyptians have to carry and which they resent. “Vodafone’s consequent dominance of the Egyptian market stems from practical problem solving. This has clear First World implications and has been exciting to watch”

The full interview can be read as part of the UK Consulting Industry End of Year Report 2014 – Optimism, Tempered by Caution. Free for MCA Members.

This interview was conducted as part of the  MCA Year of Digital.