I am a Jazz fan.
My late uncle Cyril was a superb Jazz pianist and played with some of the greats when living in the US during the 60s and 70s he was in Ted Shafer’s ‘Jelly Roll Jazz Band’. I’m not sure when I first became a real fan, I’d seen Cyril play, and I had even had some chats with the guys in the Manx Jazz Aces when I lived on the Isle of Man, and I had heard some Don Cherry thanks to his daughter Neneh and my love of Rip Rig and Panic – a Jazz Punk fusion band.
In fact it was on the Isle of Man in the Late 80s that I bought my first copy of what is still my favourite album; “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. 45 minutes of sublime modal Jazz.
I bought an album, a long player, some vinyl, a record – from a secondhand shop just off Douglas promenade. It smells just like all my other vinyl albums, it smells like a record, it smells like music.
It’s substantial in weight, the imagery is bright, colourful and the font is big enough to read comfortably. It has substance. I love the physical album almost as much as I love the music.
In fact I have it on CD now as well. And I ‘streamed’ it while doing some work on my Mac the other day.
But I love the album, seeing it now always reminds me of the emotional nature of buying albums.
This pleasure may not be known to some of you for much longer though, despite a small nostalgic bump up in vinyl sales in the middle of 2012, the figures speak for themselves:
- UK album sales dropped by 11.2% in 2012
- CD sales declined by 20% to 69.4m in 2012
- There are approximately 300 independent record shops in the UK today, down from 2,000 10 years ago
- 99.6% of singles sales in 2012 are via digital download
- Digital downloads of albums rose 14.8% in 2012 to over 30m
- Chrysler in the US is launching “Uconnect” – a wi-fi music streaming and app facility for in-car audio – so I can listen to Kind of Blue yet another way !
The ability to see and feel albums is slowly leaving us, that’s a bit sad.
This trend to buying the incorporeal and invisible peaks at Xmas and for me the above stats together with the few below are the most interesting I have seen for a while … and they give me hope … more of why later:
- Experian, the data specialist, report that there were 113m visits to retailers websites on Boxing day 2012
- There were 107m visits on Xmas day which is up 17% you
Now I know this is driven to an extent by sales and our current economic situation, but there is clear customer insight here:
Customers are happy with the channel, sure, but more importantly they are now happy buying without the product needing to be tangible, so long as the benefit to them is clear, be that price, or convenience or whatever.
This reassures me why? Well this has long been the challenge when marketing financial services. Our products offer a real benefit but they are almost unreal. Your car insurance, for example, boils down to a piece of paper (I exaggerate to make the point), but it’s so much more than that; it protects you, offers you a chance to manage your expenses by shopping around, it gives you peace of mind in case of ill fortune.
But in physical reality .. It’s your motor certificate, which you mostly only need when getting your road tax. In 2011 the 50% barrier was breached and 51% of UK motorists taxed their car on-line and around 75% of us shop around for Car Insurance on the web. You see my point?
The reassurance I feel is that as more marketers move away from a reliance on the physical this will open even more digital doors for financial services. These lower cost channels represent an opportunity to reduce costs and to optimise the customer journey in a way that makes it feel more like those retailers 113m of us visited on-line over Xmas.
It will up our marketing game as well, just think of all the inspiration we will get, but much more importantly, it also levels the playing field. The physical estates Financial Services Companies used to rely on will become less and less important when every brand is potentially only 1 click away with a mouse, or a finger. That has to be good for consumers in terms of transparency and choice when completing the actual purchase.
In 2013 and beyond I need to treat my day job just like I treat my Jazz listening; I might occasionally savour a journey with Miles on the turntable, but when I am in a rush I might choose the convenience of the CD, and increasingly if I am working on my next blog … I’ll maybe stream him to my iMac. I must remember that this is exactly what my target customers are doing too !
The final, reassuringly good, news is that all these routes exist because I, the customer, see the benefit in them, and as long as I continue to see those benefits, no doubt they will remain…. And whose job is it to make sure I see the benefit? You guessed … that would be the role of Marketers !
13 January 2013