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The Last Click


Dixons’ browse-somewhere-else-then-buy-online-from-us advertisement campaign in London, is yet another indicator that business models for the high street have to change and will give rise to new retail formats. Stores with location overhead are competing with online retailers, who blatantly acknowledge that they depend to some extend on the services offered in brick & mortar stores, before attracting customers with competing price offers. Storefronts increasingly play a different role, which is less about actual transactions and more about brand driven customer relationship management.

With the advent, in the past decade, of fast and cheap broadband access for most of the UK population, the unacknowledged has become common practice. Most of us have been in situations discovering and trying products in shops on the high-street, or flipping through books in book stores, before searching for the best deal online. Many online retailers were implicitly silent about this behaviour whilst relying on this practice. Now for the first time, a company explicitly, although in a tongue and cheek manner, tempts potential customers to follow this practice. Dixons had to close or rename many unprofitable stores in the UK to Currys Digital in the past few years. As such they don’t have much high-street presence anymore. Instead their tag line has become “ The last place you want to go”

dixons_last place you want to go

Naturally some high-street stores, who currently feel the effect of this practice are not too pleased.

Both Selfridges and Harrods have commented on the Dixons campaign. Both claim to be different by offering unique products and exceptional service in contrast to the Dixons online store. Although this may be true it is increasingly difficult for customers to choose between similar products whilst functional differences become negligible.

Online the debate about the Last-Click has been going for a few years, especially since AdSense and price comparison robots changed the rules of commerce. Recently companies like Google and Microsoft have recognised that users may visit many different sites in a chain of events that lead up to the final purchase click. In the current model the last click receives the full value of the the transaction, whilst persuasion to purchase or subscribe may have been accumulated through a succession of customer touch-points in the course of multiple sessions in as many days. This becomes increasingly an issue when driving communication about products and services into social media networks.

Various companies are developing tracking and measurement tools, which establish the value chain leading to the transaction and remunerate the facilitators accordingly. It’s a guess if Google and Microsoft are interested in this, not because of the ethical issues surrounding the current situation, but because they are worried that otherwise crucial links in the chain of events start missing. Mediators between producers and customers cannot afford consistently loosing out on their share, if dominant players keep grabbing it from them. If these mediators are removed from the chain it becomes harder for potential customers to get exposed and decide on a diverse range of products and services.

In fact in recent years advertisers increasingly demand quantifiable feedback to establish the effectiveness of a campaign and ensure ROI. These same mechanisms can be used to cut up the value cake and ensure that minor players can still fulfil a useful and worthy role in the retail customer relationship ecology. It’s possibly a way out of the dominance of the large brands and perhaps a route that makes the Long Tail actually work.

Our question is if it’s possible to merge these new online transaction-lead tracking tools, with customer touch points in the physical world. What’s missing is the possibility to uniquely trace a product purchase trajectory through the value chain. Some will argue about privacy and guaranteeing anonymity of the customers. Though customer loyalty cards, purchase vouchers and wish-list services exist already successfully in this environment, without necessarily having to compromise the individuals anonymity. The emergence of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) type systems should support these requirements whilst affecting at the same time the remuneration in this value chain. But that will be the basis for another article.

Relevant Links:

Dixons-the last place you want to go? | Marketing Week | Rosie Baker | 22 Sept 2009 | Discussion of the the effect of the campaign on the brand perception.

Dixons-the last place you want to go? |jkr |22 Sept 2009 |reflection on the style of the advertisement.

Harrods attacks Dixons’ ‘low-down’ ad campaign | Retail Week | George MacDonald | 22 September, 2009

Moving on the last click wins | | By Robin Davies | April 01, 2008 | both Google and Microsoft are looking at ways to measure beyond the ‘last click wins’ model

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