Archive for the ‘Emma Flood’ Category
On the eve of an important milestone in her life, Research Manager Emma Flood reflects on how products and services experience similar highs and lows, and how it’s important for us to understand why.
I am just about to enter a period of reflection in my life, since I am turning 30 on Monday 13th July. Although I feel I should be clinging on to the last few days of my 20s, it actually hasn’t felt such a big deal to be passing such a milestone – although perhaps I will feel quite differently on Monday!
My increasing age prompted me to think about my overall life span – past, present and future – my accomplishments in life, where I am now, and what I hope to achieve in the future. As I daydreamed about this, my mind wandered to my role as a researcher, and I began to think about the product or service life cycle. If my life were a product life cycle, you could arguably say that I’m in the growth stage of the cycle – still growing intellectually and yet to accomplish everything I will set out to achieve. I’d say I’ve got a few years yet before I hit maturity, and let’s not talk about decline…
When we think about the life cycle of products and services, growth is an exciting phase – we’ve gone through the introduction phase already and are observing how well the product or service is faring within the market, before we hit a hopefully profitable maturity, and preferably not decline. Recognising where we are as a business is an important step in defining future strategy – yet not all businesses recognise, for instance, how much growth certain business segments have left, or perhaps how to avoid the decline stage.
This started me thinking about how much attention is paid to the product life cycle. You may have a portfolio of products and services, each at different stages of their life cycle – could you easily identify where each one is? Identifying their stage, and thus their future potential can be imperative for business. Perhaps you have seen a consistent decline in interest in one of your products or services, or perhaps you have seen a spurt of growth in another – do you know what has caused this? Market research can get to the bottom of the drivers behind growth and decline, and provide you with a focus on which areas of your business could be your star performers and which business segments are less attractive – and indicate investment would be better placed elsewhere.
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In today’s Thursday Night Insight, Emma Flood considers the importance of understanding our customers and markets today.
I read with interest a story this Easter weekend on the BBC news website regarding British people’s belief in Heaven and life after death. The study, conducted by Theos, the Theology thinktank, included the views of 2,060 respondents based in the UK, and revealed some enlightening insight. The study found that 55% of adults in the UK believe in Heaven, while 53% believe in life after death. Furthermore, 39% said they believed in ghosts.
These are interesting findings alone, although when they are examined within a timeframe, the findings are more striking. In 1998 MORI carried out a poll which revealed a similar result, with 40% agreeing they believed in ghosts. But compare this to fifty years prior, and the results are starkly different. In a 1951 poll by Gallup, only 10% of the population claimed to believe in ghosts. So the author of the article concludes that over the course of sixty years, the belief amongst the UK population in ghosts has risen markedly from 10% in 1951 to 39% today.
There are two ways we could look at this – either in accordance with the view from Theos Director Paul Woolley, that "The enlightenment optimism in the ability of science and reason to explain everything ended decades ago” – that the British public has opened their mind to considering what was previously thought unbelievable by the majority, and that society’s perception of the supernatural has dramatically changed over time.
Or we could look at these results with scepticism and argue that the panel of respondents would likely be remarkably different in 1951 compared to the likely demographics of that panel today. One could argue that the composition of the panel in 1951 might well have been made up more so of the white middle aged and middle classes, whilst today’s sample is likely to be representative of today’s UK population, which would factor in the demographic shifts in ethnicity and could perhaps including a broader age range of respondents. Could these demographic shifts be the reason for the marked increase in belief?
Whichever way we choose to look at the results, whether we feel there is a sample inconsistency between the panels of respondents, or if we choose to believe the results at face value, which indicate a dramatic shift in perceptions, it brings forward two valid points.
The first point is recognising the importance of the sampling method for any piece of research, and how if you might repeat the research in the future, you may choose to keep this consistent over time, to compare results directly. The second point is that along with demographics of a population, opinions, needs and behaviour will change over time, illustrating the importance of revisiting your panel for an up-to-date set of data.
In considering these points, it is worth looking intrinsically at our own organisations, perhaps asking the questions: How well do I know my customers today? Who are my customers today, and am I meeting their needs? Who are my competitors today, and what advantage do they have? What is my position in the market today, and how can I capitalise on that, or re-position in a more profitable segment of the market?
It is also worth considering here the importance of understanding our customers, and striving in an increasingly competitive marketplace to meet their needs and retain their business. It is much easier (and more cost effective) to retain existing customers than it is to attract new customers, which illustrates the importance of understanding their needs and ensuring your offering is more attractive than your competitors.
To read more about B2B International’s experience in the areas of customer satisfaction, positioning and segmentation, and how we could help your organisation today, follow the links below:
In her first Thursday Night Insight, Research Consultant Emma Flood considers the importance of understanding and maintaining corporate position and brand image.
Almost 100 years ago, in 1909, the retailer Woolworths started life in Britain. F. W. Woolworth, as it was known then, sold a variety of merchandise from stationery, to toys and children’s clothes, to confectionary – and had a focus on providing ‘value-for-money’. As an American-owned company, its stores operated using an innovative US-style store layout, encouraging shoppers to browse, rather than to simply make a purchase and leave.
By the 1920s the retail chain was riding high, with one store opening every 17 days. More recently, when Woolworths Group plc floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2001 with an opening price of 32p, the retailer continued to perform well, with shares rising and peaking at 55p in April 2005.
So what has happened to Woolworths? Since January 2007 Woolworths shares have been in almost constant decline, and after almost 100 years of retailing on the British high street, Woolworths has closed its doors with an estimated £385m debt. Throughout December and January all of its 807 stores will close, and 27,000 temporary and permanent staff will lose their jobs.
In its interim report last year, Woolworths noted several factors which now seem prominent in contributing to its demise. There has been a distinct change to the retail landscape, and retailers like Woolworths have seen increasing competition from food retailers (amongst others) who are expanding into general merchandising. The growth of the digital entertainment market has effected a change in consumer preferences towards digital delivery of products (i.e. MP3 rather than CD) and thus further threatened Woolworths’ entertainment offering. Perhaps the overarching factor to be taken into consideration is the current economic climate and the deterioration of the UK retail market, forcing redundancies and store closures amongst other retailers also.
The closure of the 807 Woolworths stores has lead to major clearance sales – you may well recall images of the bargain hunting shoppers queuing in their droves, fighting over slashed price goods as the store emptied itself of its final stock, even selling its fixtures and fittings at bargain prices. Or perhaps you’re like me – despite the fact that I too love a bargain, I was not tempted to hunt around the store during its final days.
This started me thinking about Woolworths, and why I’ve never been particularly attracted to shop there. Along with the rest of the UK, I am very well aware of the name Woolworths, but had to ask myself the question, what is Woolworths? What does it mean to me? What does it offer? Various images flooded my mind – pick ‘n’ mix counters, shelves stacked with everything from crockery to children’s clothes, and the ever present CD/DVD/gaming section with its fairly limited offer. I looked to the Group’s website for some clarity and found Woolworths positioning itself as ‘one of the UK’s leading retailers focused on the home, family and entertainment’.
I’m afraid this didn’t particularly clarify things for me, and I’m still confused by the sheer array of products Woolworths sells, and unsure exactly why I would be motivated to shop there. For me, Woolworths does not hold a clear position in my mind, nor indeed the changing marketplace.
In the face of increasing competition, contracting markets and a tough economic environment, it is vital to carve or maintain a distinctive and attractive brand image and position within the market. A clear and differentiated position will make it easier for your customers to identify and engage with your brand and offer, and motivate them to purchase from you. If you do not have a clear message, you are less easily understood by your customers, who in turn have less of a reason to use you.
Corporate positioning and branding research enables you to understand what customers and potential customers consider your brand values to be, and what the preferred brand characteristics are. In understanding preferred brand values, you can build a market position which emphasises these and your company’s key strengths; in turn helping to aid customer retention and acquisition.
To read one of B2B International’s case studies on Corporate Positioning and Branding, and see how it could be applied to your business, follow the link below: