The Emperor’s Fall …

Wasting money. That’s something my Granny and her amazing generation would never have condoned. Waste not, want not …

So why do we blindly accept it? I learned a long time ago that trying to show some companies or organisations that they can save money is like pushing water uphill. Pretty pointless.

They’ll either nick your ideas and never say thanks, or ignore you because they’re paranoid. They think you’re undermining their role. What would their bosses say if they discovered budgets could be slashed? You become a threat as they believe you will make them redundant. Better to be in charge of a large budget achieving very little than a small budget achieving a great deal. Money counts.

But at a time when paying off the national debt at the current trickle will take a billion years (or something close), surely there should be a change of focus? Surely saving money AND improving service levels is nirvana? Well, you’d think so …

My work in the UK retail industry – primarily in the shopping centre industry – has shown that you can save money, improve service levels, increase customer interaction and enhance engagement with retailers. Yet too many remain blind. Heads stuck in the sand … ignorant of mobile communication, unwilling to accept – let alone understand – social media, and still treating shoppers (and often retailers) with a lack of respect. At times, contempt.

Company after company, council after council and QUANGO after QUANGO are still frittering huge sums of money every year. ??Many??agencies are selling inferior services – unquestioned, unchecked and often unaccountable. There is almost no joined up thinking. Client and agency are acting as if we were still in 2007. ‘Websites’ are still seen as an entity separate to overall comms and marketing plans. Social Media is seen as a ‘nice to have’ that can be done by someone either as a job filler or handed to someone with almost zero training and no journalistic skill. It all happens, at best, five days a week. Forget the weekends.

I’m not making this up. I have worked with colleagues on a research project into 250+ UK shopping destination websites: 95% are pretty much unfit for purpose including those of some of the largest players in the industry. And there is a near obsession with Apps, despite all the research saying that responsive websites outperform Apps in the retail sector by at least 2:1.

We also checked out social media delivery. Woeful in almost every case – and not planned or integrated with any online offering. Retailers and brands only noticeable through their almost near total absence … and yet it is their contribution to service charges that is paying for many of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

I am lucky enough to work in a great industry. For all my criticism and carping, there are some genuinely great people in the business. But we’re at a crossroads. Shoppers are already turning their backs on traditional shopping destinations. They are spending money with companies who understand their expectations.

Retailers are struggling. More and more are investing more and more in e-commerce, increasingly via responsive sites to suit their customers’ increased mobility.

Yet through these seismic changes, most owners of retail destinations remain in a time warp. If they don’t move – and move fast – they will be owners or very empty retail destinations, devoid of shoppers, shops and income.

They’ll lose their shirt, just like the Emperor.

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