Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Superdrug: the super hurdles to super online... Why anything less can’t hack it

Marketing Week reports that A.S. Watson is launching an innovation lab to improve its digital strategy and accelerate ecommerce growth as part of a £37m investment.

Called eLab, the new unit will drive its online strategy globally. The team will comprise of 80 digital specialists based out of mainland China, Hong Kong, Milan and London.

The group-level unit will advise A.S. Watson’s brand teams on strategies related to digital marketing and e-commerce, across all its categories. It will also maintain a platform which will serve as the backbone of its online outlets in the various country markets.

However, before NAMs decide to leap aboard, it might be worth checking out how the company measures against the Amazonian hurdle rates that have to be a basic online requirement:
- 1-Click ordering
- No-quibble returns as easy as ordering
- Delivery: the three-step basics: Anticipatory shipping, Near-home collection, Geographical penetration

All else is detail…

See the three KPIs in practice here

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A royal precaution?

Queen Elizabeth II visits the Antiques Roadshow, BBC 14th September 2014, on the eve of the Scottish Referendum......

Friday, 12 September 2014

Rare Pied Wagtail gives Tesco the bird

                                                                                                                         pic: Wild About Britain

The Telegraph reports that for the past few weeks a Pied Wagtail has been resisting all Tesco attempts at capture in their Gt Yarmouth store.

The company was even granted a licence by Natural England to bring in a sniper to kill the protected bird, prompting outrage from customers, environmentalists and a BBC wildlife presenter.

Because of the reaction, Tesco have decided to revert to more old fashioned means of trapping and releasing the ‘unwelcome’ shopper-bird into the wild….

Given their large-space redundancy and shopper attrition, a more lateral-thinking approach might be to optimise the traffic-building potential of the situation via innovative instore theatre.

In other words, why not set up a series of gentle faux-attempts to capture the bird, stretching over several weeks, shooting it photographically, and posting the ongoing results on YouTube? 

Incidentally, for those NAMs that cannot work a visit to Gt. Yarmouth into their  store-check schedule, a comprehensive BBC treatment of the Pied Wagtail is available here.

Hat-tip to Richard for pointing us at the article

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tesco's fall in share price - why should NAMs bother?

Market capitalisation i.e. value of the company in the open market falls and impacts all stakeholders, including NAMs. For instance in early February, Tesco was valued at £23.58bn whereas today it is valued at £18.23bn…a fall of 22.7% in 7 months!

Why does it matter?
Senior management on share options suffer a direct impact on their personal wealth. Employees on performance-related bonuses via shares become demotivated and begin to consider their options...
In extreme cases (!), there is a negative impact on company reputation i.e. good guys leave, good guys not attracted, while the less-able remain less able… 

Shareholders may force change like splitting the company, replacing board members, etc.

Meanwhile the cost of financing rises
- Loans from banks become more expensive via higher interest rates
- Rights issues i.e. the proceeds and ease of raising new money from shareholders obviously depends
  upon the share price

The growing threat of takeover becomes distracting, at least, and/or may even amplify the above effects..

Impact on suppliers
The resulting bad press can unsettle conservative suppliers, and their shareholders, resulting in pressure to re-balance the customer portfolio (in which case, think also re Sainsbury’s and Morrisons falls in share price?)

Suppliers then reconsider their options and may reclassify the retailer in terms of invest/maintain/divest criteria, ideally following a fundamental re-think…

Meanwhile, given the increased risk:
- A 44 day credit period looks increasingly vulnerable…and even a 2.5+% settlement discount
  seems cheap…
- Trade investment of up to 20% of turnover requires more justification
- 100% compliance becomes a ‘must-get’
- Deductions become challengeable...

Still think a retailer’s share price is simply something for the institutional shareholders?

In other words, Tesco is now in a position to appreciate the benefits of dealing with strong, profitable brands that can help them restore their profitability, and share value..

All it takes is for NAMs to be able to calculate the costs of their offering and demonstrate its value to Tesco’s Balance Sheet and P&L….fast

Monday, 1 September 2014

An ROCE recipe for Dave...?

On his first day at the other side of the Tesco checkout, Dave Lewis will have no shortage of advisers explaining what has gone wrong, a few less saying what to do about it and perhaps a handful indicating a way forward…

Given that scenario, and with some humility, we offer a few pointers for Tesco and its NAMs.

Essentially, Dave Lewis has been parachuted in to restore the share price

Incidentally, much is being made of their loss of market share, but when you think that 30+% of a market seems to translate into market abuse in the minds of politicians, special interest groups and can give the public the impression that ‘Tesco are everywhere’, then perhaps allowing their share to drift down to 25% and keeping it there, would allow  Tesco to focus on growth outside the UK, whilst fulfilling the basic principle of global retailing – profitable dominance of the home market…

Improving the share price:
Given that ROCE drives the share price, then improving ROCE and its elements could provide a way forward

ROCE = Return/Sales i.e. Net Margin  x Sales / Capital Employed i.e. Capital turn
     -  Maintain sales (i.e. see market share issue above), cut costs via reductions in admin and operational costs
     -  Rationalise brand/Private label balance to reflect real market demand and optimise profitability

2. IMPROVING Tesco S/CE i.e. capital rotation
     - maintain sales, cut capital employed i.e. reduce Fixed Assets, Current Assets and increase Current Liabilities

Fixed Asset reduction:
- Sell off land-bank as fast as the property market will allow i.e. without crashing land prices.
- Assess profitability of existing stores, with a view to selling off those that are compromising overall profitability

Current Asset reduction: 
- Reduce stocks by rationalising  ranges and encouraging closer supplier collaboration to increase stockturn
- Reduce debtors (being a retailer, advance payments are parked in the Debtors box…)
- Cash reduction

Current Liabilities increase:
- Move to a gearing level of 30% to remove bank pressure from the mix
- Check the trade-off between extra days credit and settlement discount, and contact the suppliers

This should provide a breathing space to apply some marketing skills…

How about the NAMs?
Consider a ‘what-if’ re Tesco applying the above recipe, and assess the cost to you, and the value to Tesco of your collaboration…

Friday, 29 August 2014

Something for the weekend: Optimising price-pints via the 99 pack of beer!

                                                                                                 Youtube clip via Jake BC

Austin brewers Anytimeale website says it all: “It’s not only real, it’s an amazing deal: ninety-nine beers for $99. That’s 82 pounds of craft beer! Over seven feet of crisp, flavorful Peacemaker!”

Given the Amazonian logistics issues re getting the pack home from the store, perhaps there might even be an alternative route to consumer via some online provider?

Have another long weekend from the NamNews Team!
(Hat tip to Mike Anthony for the pointer to the Adweek article)

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Medium is the Message? (or, using a garbage-truck to re-invent a toothbrush)

                                                 Pic:  via Lars Poulsen, Birgitte Kold Ingwersen, & Eduard Hoogendijk

Marshall McLuhan caused us all comprehension-headaches in the 60’s (the bit I do remember…!) when he introduced his idea: The Medium is the Message, in his ground-breaking work, Understanding Media 

Nothing beats going back to the original (great explanation here), but essentially McLuhan was saying that we tend to focus on the obvious. When we create an idea, its main properties are obvious, but following its application, our in-use experience should cause us to look backwards and realise that we perhaps missed a trick at the time…or we did not anticipate the effect our invention would have on users, in terms of elevating their expectations..

For instance, the creators of the above truck advert were simply combining the physical characteristics of the Oral-B brush and the garbage-truck in a brilliant stroke of insight and execution.

However, if I read McLuhan correctly, this end result could cause us to look backwards at the original design of the Braun toothbrush, a breakthrough at the time, and realise that we had simply ‘motorised a toothbrush’…i.e. like making the hair of a broom rotate for increased efficiency in terms of moving dirt.

But the truck-idea causes us to see what is missing in the original design, the idea of somehow sucking up the dirt in addition to cleansing…

In other words, is there some way of sucking up displaced residue, instead of spitting the result into the hand-basin…?

Time for the Braun Oral-B guys to get in touch with Mr Dyson, or the patent-office, fast?

Friday, 22 August 2014

Request-based vs. Demand-based pricing?

Pic: Michael Ebbesen LEGO, via Mark Anderson LEGOLAND, Windsor

Degree of 'dislike' as a KPI in unprecedented times...

Whilst traditionally we used degree-of-satisfaction, or the consumer’s regard for a brand as a key measure of brand health, unprecedented times may cause us to have to work at the other end of the spectrum - degree of dislike - for guidance on retaining consumers…

Incidentally, perhaps this subconscious need of brand owners to explore all growth-avenues is a reason why yesterday’s Birds Eye survey of Top Foods that British Consumers Dislike Eating, attracted our highest readership of the week.

Cost-management as a driver
In the case of a well-known ‘Liver salts’ brand, if the manufacturer still used the original 1930’s ingredients, the product would cost upwards of £3k per tin onshelf, and would probably remain there… Given this escalating cost, the key driver of product innovation was a search for less expensive ingredients that tasted the same and produced the same physical effect on the consumer… i.e. a need to avoid known dis-satisfaction limits for regular users.

On a more personal level, many years ago in the marketing department of a well-known milk-based beverage, we faced similar issues with ingredient-cost and had to search for less expensive substitutes. We fed the ‘revisions’ to our captive audience via the canteen, and I was charged with spending break-times there, monitoring the ‘degree-of-grimace’ on the faces of colleagues as they unknowingly tasted the modified brew…

Whilst we may have risked losing an employee or two, this testing-model ensured that little risk was taken with our precious consumer franchise…

Although we should always aim to delight the consumer by ‘over-delivering’ on performance, perhaps we are in danger of moving beyond satisfying the needs of the consumer if carried to excess... In other words, we are ‘contracting’ with the consumer to deliver a combination of Product-performance, Price, Presentation and Place that compares well with - i.e. is marginally better  than- equivalents available in the category.

Delivering significantly more than the consumer is ‘buying’ by ‘over-engineering’ the product runs the risk of confusing the consumer, costing more, and may even make us uncompetitive.

The real issue therefore is to fundamentally understand and manage the expectations of the consumer, thereby releasing resources for communicating the proposition and innovation.

…and if that approach causes us to monitor ‘degree-of-dislike’ of the brand, perhaps it is preferable for us to explore and avoid that point, before the consumers vote with their feet…? 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Having had your lunch, Lidl are coming for your clothes…

Having taken a slice of the multiples’ action - including some top-end delicacies - and dipped their toe into the rag trade via basics like underwear, vests and childrens’ wear, Lidl have moved into what it describes as "high-end, on-trend" mainstream fashion to capitalise on its growing UK foot-print…

The unbranded clothing range – manufactured in China and Bangladesh – will compete head-on with Asda's  George brand, Tesco's F&F and Sainsbury's Tu, as well as discount clothing specialist Primark.

In doing so, they and the mults are pushing at the open door of traditional clothing retailing...

Given that clothing retailers need retail margins of up to 60% to cover difficult-to-forecast demand, especially in fashion, and to finance end-of-season 50% price-cuts, the Lidl move represents a major threat to a sector already struggling for survival.

Try matching the highlight of the collection, "leather" jackets – two in faux leather and a biker-style design with leather piping – which will go on sale at £14.99 each, while stocks last (see pics at The Guardian),

Meanwhile, back at the branch, Lidl will attract, and keep a new stream of all-age, all income customers who will invariably be tempted to top up on foodstuffs…

Then having ‘done’ clothing, Lidl will busy themselves coming to a category near you… 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why dynamic pricing is a must for ecommerce retailers

According to research via econsultancy.com, Dynamic Pricing - a pricing strategy in which prices change in response to real-time supply and demand - isn’t a new pricing strategy (American Airlines first introduced it in the early 80’s*), and it is currently taking ecommerce by storm..

Dynamic pricing allows retailers to lower prices to drive sales when demand is low, and to increase profits via higher prices when demand is high. 

Apparently, Amazon, one of the largest retailers that uses dynamic pricing, changes its prices every 10 minutes on average, while Walmart changes prices up to 50,000 times/month…

Econsultancy.com also lists dynamic pricing tactics with examples for online retailers:

- Segmented pricing: tiered prices from value to premium

- Peak pricing: to take advantage of fluctuations in demand

- Time-based pricing: to adjust prices according to the time of day or product life-cycle

- Penetration pricing: to set a lower price to encourage trial

For suppliers, dynamic pricing has to be the ultimate match of demand with price and will succeed in terms of satisfaction as long as the pricing mechanism is seen to respond 'instantly' and proportionately to changes in real demand...

* NB. Dynamic pricing needs care in application: For instance, suppose airlines sold paint?  

Monday, 18 August 2014

P&G: brand cull or category cull?

News of P&G’s intention to cull up to 100 smaller brands - approx. 10% of its revenue - in the next one to two years to focus on 70-80 of its big or ‘leadership’ brands, inevitably caused a flurry of reaction in the market..

However, now that the dust has settled, NAMs can think through the ‘small-print’ and its implications…
  • This is a cull of brands, not categories i.e. the sold-off brands will remain in the ‘over-crowded’ categories, confusing shoppers…
  • These categories - including possibly hair care, make up, shaving and healthcare - will continue to be populated by brands that are under new, invigorated ownership, by companies with a need to justify the cost of acquisitions...
  • P&G’s retained brands will have the benefits of increased resourcing and focus i.e. more competition from P&G in its ‘leadership’ categories
  • Suppliers and retailers have yet to address the possibility that the savvy consumer is confused by excessive choice....
Meanwhile, suppliers in many categories have time (?) to anticipate the new competitive landscape - Buying Mix Analysis? - in order to re-assess and optimise the relative appeal of their brands before the ‘pre-owned’ brands arrive…. 

The Wall Street Journal offers a list of possible P&G disposals here
AdAge lists the advertising agencies affected here

Friday, 15 August 2014

Is your customer worth a 90-day wait?

Although you could exercise your ‘walk-away’ rights, we all know that a customer representing 10%+ of your business is not easily replaced, especially in a flat-line environment…

The issue is whether you need to reduce the payment period to reduce exposure, i.e. the risk of a customer going bust, impact on cash-flow of an extended credit pipeline, or simply on principle i.e. a deeply-felt determination not to shoulder the working capital responsibilities of even your best customer..

If the issue is one of company principle, then the Board must be prepared to take the pain of de-listing, with the NAM simply becoming the messenger who hopefully survives the ‘walk-away’ trip…

Ordinary mortals need to focus on the cost of risk-reduction and minimising cash-flow impact…

The ‘on-time payment’ blind alley
Incidentally, forget the regulation/legislation re ‘on-time payment’. As you know, this simply states that the customer ‘must’ pay within the period agreed, be that 30, 45 or even 90 days. ‘On-time payment’ is not about paying within a defensible time-frame i.e. say 10 days for a daily-delivered product that is sold within 5 days of receipt…

In other words, if a supplier is not paid on transfer of value, i.e. when the goods are sold to consumers, then, by definition, the supplier is providing extra value in the form of interest-free credit, and this should be factored into the supplier-customer equation…

What to do about it?
Whilst you may not be successful in negotiating a reduction in payment terms, it may be possible to approach the problem in a different way i.e. via compensating concessions.

How to do it?
Having calculated the cost of financing the current credit period (NamCalc), say 65 days, vs. the cost of the ideal reduced period, say 30 days, then the 35 day difference will be the amount the supplier needs to recover from the relationship via a combination of additional low-cost, high value concessions from the buyer...

These could include ‘last-minute’ extra facings to fill unexpected gaps, temporary exclusivity, and ‘free’ use of space for in-store theatre-promos ( the mults have increasing issues with redundant space).

In order to be able to agree a fair exchange of a combination of these concessions for credit period, it is important for the NAM to be able to calculate or at least estimate the incremental sales that can result from the each initiative, never forgetting that every move creates a precedent…

The key idea is having the courage to put credit period in the middle of the table, quantify it from each party’s point-of-view, and explore different options with the buyer that may go some way towards re-balancing joint value..

Simply regarding credit-period as a fixed norm not only misses a negotiable trick, but also represents increasing risk in the current climate… 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Where next for Aldi, Lidl and private label in the upturn?

Brand owners taking comfort in the belief that the swing to private label and the discounters’ surrogate brands (i.e. Smith’s coffee made exclusively for Aldi) is a temporary aberration due for correction in the current ‘upturn’, might lose a little sleep following the publication of new research on how consumer knowledge affects the choice of private label over national brands.

Mark Ritson gives a great summary of the paper and its implications in Marketing Week, where he notes
- Category knowledge (and the resulting confidence) is a key predictive driver in choosing private label
- ...if people are buying private labels not because they are trading quality for lower prices but because they know these products are as good as the manufacturer brands (Aldi, Lidl and private label will not lose share in the upturn).

Mark’s Marketing Week article is much more accessible, but it can also pay to go back to the original research paper for more details on OTC medicines and Pantry Staples. The paper also gives anecdotal insights such as … the welfare claims we make (for medicines) depend on the assumption that information per se does not affect the utility a consumer receives from a product. If, for example, believing that national-brand aspirin works better actually makes national-brand aspirin more effective at reducing headaches, then informing consumers could actually make them worse off…

The original paper concludes:
  • Across a range of products we find strong evidence that more informed shoppers buy more store brands and fewer national brands.
  • Consumer information plays a large quantitative role in health categories, where our estimates imply that expenditures and market shares would change significantly if all households behaved like expert shoppers.
  • By contrast, the role of consumer information is smaller in food and drink categories, where our estimates suggest much smaller gaps between expert and non-expert shopping behaviour...
    i.e. a moderately savvy consumer is likely to have more confidence in opting for private label food and drink, than medicines…
NB. The researchers emphasise that the study was limited to examining the effects of information on quantities and prices. If consumers were to become more informed, markets would adjust on other bases as well. In particular, a more informed population of consumers might change whether and how much firms choose to advertise their products, as well as which products are introduced to the market. 

NAM Implications:
For many years we have been educating the consumer to be more savvy in their choice of our brand, and have been helping them place the brand within a functionally-based category context…

Have we been inadvertently driving them at the private label/surrogate brand in the process?

Thanks to Guy Cuthbert for the pointer…

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Amazon KAM - A new way of Managing Major Customers?

News of Amazon’s latest issues with publishing giant Hachette and its authors, reveals the extent to which Amazon can affect markets in its aim to bring cheaper books to the public.

The row has come to a head because Amazon and Hachette have failed to agree new terms under which the online retailer can sell the publisher’s books. Amazon in turn is reducing its stock of Hachette titles and blocking pre-orders, which are vital to secure early sales and nudge a book up the charts.

For a good summary of the detail and implications, see Graham Ruddick’s latest treatment in The Telegraph.

Nothing like Amazon has happened before in terms of scale and influence. So perhaps it requires a different approach in terms of account management?

Obviously, Walmart is big and increasingly global, but Amazon has the capability of straddling the globe - albeit next day delivery might present some problems in the Amazonian jungle -, without the need for the same degree of ‘bricks & mortar’ infrastructure that would be required by a ‘walmart’ hoping to achieve the same coverage and access to consumers…

In fact, it could be said that Amazon is heading towards a 50% share of anything that can be sold anywhere, to anyone, at least…, and perhaps we should budget with that in mind?

This means that the traditional NAM/KAM model could be inadequate.

Traditionally, as you know, as in-house champions of their accounts, NAMs were seen as business managers of a customer-business-unit, often within a global context for that customer, charged with maximising sales and optimising long term profitability of the account, without compromising the company’s dealings with the customer in other countries, and with very little consideration of the impact on other  customers.

It was the job of senior management to ensure that each major customer received its fair-share of the action.

Amazon needs to be managed differently….

Whilst a company should never try to hold back a major customer’s growth in order to limit its share of the company’s business – in the current flat-line environment any growth should be cultivated – perhaps the role of the Amazon KAM & NAMs should be to not only enable Amazon to reach its full potential, but also be the in-house ‘educator’ to ensure that Amazon’s online disciplines and KPIs are applied to any other customers aspiring to compete online. In other words, Amazon standards should be used to raise the company’s total game, and to assess how trade support is apportioned among other members of the customer portfolio.

Amazon have found a way of growing in a flat-line environment and perhaps it is time for us all to learn how to optimise this new future...

Finally, it hopefully goes without saying that the Amazon NAMs should have an open-line dialogue with their Board-colleagues to ensure that immovable trading limits are set, and strictly maintained, as Amazon approaches what could be 50%+ of the company’s business…