Clicking the potential

Brands should use their online divisions as a laboratory, testing products and ideas in a risk-free environment, as Retail News investigates.

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By  Administrator Published  March 14, 2009

Brands should use their online divisions as a laboratory, testing products and ideas in a risk-free environment, as Retail News investigates.

FMCG companies in the Middle East should consider building up their presence by investing in digital channels to encourage and capture engagement.

Social networking websites offer a high-level of targeted marketing.

The content would help to inform buying teams on which products consumers really like to keep in step with their expectations.

From Facebook to Twitter, internet success stories suggest that online activities should now be hardwired into marketing strategies by default, even simply a dedicated URL on TV or print advertisements to encourage cross-channel promotion.

UK retailer Argos' e-mail campaign requesting consumer reviews generated 90,000 responses in January this year. The retailer used Bazaarvoice's ratings and reviews service to provide online shoppers with feedback on products.

Argos multichannel programme and operations manager David Tarbuck said that the retailer had contacted more than two million customers via the campaign.

"Each review adds to the value others customers get from real product opinions. Since we introduced rating and reviews on the site we have seen volume and coverage increase substantially. The better the coverage of reviews, the greater the positive impact of the review information," he said.

The feedback generated would be used to inform decisions within the business, he said, and the content would help to  inform the buying teams on which products customers really like, ensuring that "we keep in step with their expectations and continue to deliver a great product mix".

To trigger a high-level of targeted marketing and increase their visibility, retailers and brand owners worldwide are turning their attention to online social networks such as YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Many FMCG brands have now used Facebook to pull their fan base, customers, and potential customers together. Facebook provides tools that allow users to play videos and allow businesses to send marketing messages directly to targeted audiences.

The website is now used by more than 150 million people to share personal information with friends online and continues to attract members with demographics that could serve e-tailers well in terms of extending market reach and increasing branding.

The web research firm Hitwise reports that Facebook was the fifth-ranked Web site in terms of total market share of visits in January 2009.

One of the greatest draws for FMCG players has been its viral effect. If any person becomes a ‘fan' of the company's page, a message is sent to all of that person's friends telling them about it, providing a great channel to get its message out to many people over a short period of time.

John Lewis-owned Waitrose has launched a social networking site,, to develop interactivity with customers in the UK, giving an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at the grocer, providing tips from Waitrose staff and creating a forum for shoppers to interact with experts.

The website will have special offers, enabling shoppers to taste and comment on new and existing products at VIP tasting events.

Online sales have proved to be bright spots in retailing in recent months, even in recession-battered markets such as the UK. Tesco plans to tap into the fast-growing market for online fashion shopping by launching a website this autumn that will sell own-brand clothing ranges like Cherokee and F&F.

"Because online is a sort of microcosm of our overall business, we can sometimes learn things or see what's working more quickly. In a nutshell, we are a hothouse," said Laura Wade-Gery, chief executive of Tesco Direct and

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