In the context of global expansion and competition of numerous businesses, effective marketing management is one of the key factors of success, playing an essential role in obtaining competitive advantage. Hence, the success of a company is determined by its ability to identify customers’ needs and offering products and/or services to satisfy them.
WHSmith is a UK brand with world-wide recognition, best known for its chain of shops selling books, stationery, newspapers, magazines and entertainment products. In the last few years, the high street market has experienced a significant slowdown in economic activities. This includes a rise in tougher competition along with a decrease in customer spending, which has challenged corporations and their marketing department.
One of the first issues emerging from our research, affecting primarily the trend of the business, is the absence of a real brand identity and the lack of a Unique Selling Point (USP). During tough economic periods WHSmith attempted to expand its market by differentiating the range of products through entering new markets not directly linked with their core business. Whilst the WHSmith Travel stores have been deemed a great success, attracting the attention of commuting customers with strategically positioned impulse goods, in the High Street the current economic climate has led the business away from its historic objectives. It is fundamental to understand what customers’ focus on and, subsequently, create the USP by rationally highlighting the company’s strengths.
There is a long history of strong competition between companies that are striving for an increased market share through differentiating themselves from competing companies. In today’s overcrowded business environment competition results in creating a “red ocean” where rivals are endeavouring to conquer a profit “basin” which is ever decreasing. (Kim & Mauborgne, 2005)
When market share goes down, the company has three options to choose from: either to go down at the same time, to grow biting the competitors’ slice, or to create a new market space and “swim” in it by itself. This last option was called “Blue Ocean” strategy, which offers a systematic method of transforming the concurrence into an irrelevant element. (Kim & Mauborgne, 2005) According to this strategy, marketers should focus on non-consumers, identify the boundaries that stop them buying and create the exact products that non-consumers would like to find. Giving up the traditional strategic way of thinking, this strategy would open a new and daring perspective for WHSmith, to stand out amongst its many current competitors. The company should determine its rivals to be irrelevant instead of competing against them. We believe that competition in WHSmith’s case is not constructive, since there will always be specialist stores, such as HMV for CDs and DVDs or supermarkets for cheaper magazines, as a better alternative. Internet is also taking customers away, with the rapid growth in online purchases. What we see as a solution for WHSmith is offering customers a more pleasant shopping experience and emphasizing the feeling of shopping in a High Street store by introducing coffee-shops – a quiet place where people can read a book or the latest newspapers bought from WHSmith, while having a coffee in a comfortable sofa. The cost of the High Street stores’ location is high; therefore the company should take advantage of it and make the shopping experience different from that in a suburban supermarket.
Music on the background is a critical element that has an immediate impact on the purchase decision making process, influencing the perception of the uniqueness of products and service levels (Baker, Grewal and Parasraman, 1994). A recent survey shows that 60% of the customers reckon that a carefully selected music can make them stay longer in-store. Research shows that music in store should be slow and relaxed in...
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