Retail and brand convergence

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The line between brands and retailers is now greyer than ever. Fifteen years ago customer bought products almost exclusively through retailers. Then the Internet changed that model, and brands started going direct to customers. Facebook further changed the model, enabling customers to interact with brands even more easily.

Let’s take an example of airline tickets. Fifteen years ago everyone booked flights through a travel agent – basically a retailer. Nowadays most people book flights direct with the airline (the brand). On average, 200,000 people ‘Like’ Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, RyanAir and easyJet on Facebook.

We’re already seeing electronics manufacturers setting up their own High Street shops – Sony, Panasonic and Apple are good examples. Except for the last brand, I imagine most people who go into the shop are there to browse and try products, which then go on to purchase online.

One key advantage of brands, (or manufacturers – most of the time they are the same thing), going direct to the consumer and having an interaction with them, is that they can better understand the market, and improve their product or service. A lot has been made of consumer insight and its value to marketing department; however I think the value of consumer insight can and should be to the whole organisation.

The future will enable more customers to buy directly from brands up to a point – I can’t imagine a time where I’ll stop using a supermarket and start buying soup from Heinz, drinks directly from Coke, frozen vegetables from Birds Eye and crisps from Walkers.

Photo courtesy of Laurent Dechoux on Flickr

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