Brand Republic: Marketing Society Question of the Week

02/07/2009

Woolworth's success needed the high street model

Like many who grew up aching for Saturday’s trip to the pic'n'mix counter, it was sad to see the great Woolies brand hurtle into the abyss - but hardly unexpected. Woolworth's thrived on an offering a mile wide and an inch deep; the most generalist of high street retailers with branches large enough to have something for everyone, but too small to have choice. Woolies wasn’t simply on the high street, it was a product of the high street retail model. That's why its success online is far from guaranteed.

10 years back, a web presence could have transformed that offering, but today Woolies is head-to-head with Amazon for media, iTunes for music, John Lewis for household goods… How can their toy store have only 2 soft toys? …their electrical counter only 10 cameras and 3 PCs? Why should DVD buyers switch to a site with no social media or recommendation engine? Today’s shopper lives in a world of massive choice and limitless information, but Woolworths ‘2.0’ doesn't yet compete or differentiate.

A digital strategy doesn't mean simply 'being online'. It means understanding consumers in a digital networked society and satisfying their needs with a digitally native offer. Sadly an online version of the old high street model fails on all counts.

Woolworths.co.uk has just launched as a web-only retail business
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