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Shop till you drop from the comfort of your own home

Shop till you drop from the comfort of your own home

Phrases like ‘economic downturn’, ‘record levels of unemployment’ and ‘recession’ have become the background to our everyday lives for the last few years. However, this week we’ve had a slight respite from the doom-and-gloom headlines about the economy. The media are bandying about a new favourite phrase ‘Cyber Monday’, as the digital equivalent of Black Friday. Black Friday is a US term coined for the busiest shopping day of the festive calendar – many shops capitalise on this increased footfall with special deals and discounts. Cyber Monday has become the online, international equivalent of Black Friday. For several years on this day users – suddenly panicked about the lack of ticks on their shopping list – crawl the internet for the best deals. As with its offline predecessor, retailers have been quick to respond with specially targeted Cyber Monday campaigns.

Whilst the high street is looking somewhat sad and depleted, the online retail space has thrived in the lead up to Christmas. There was much speculation about the millions of people who would be shopping online last Monday. Mashable even wrote a tongue-and-cheek guide to getting your Christmas shopping done on Cyber Monday.

According to IBM Core Metrics Cyber Monday sales were up 33% on last year’s record of $1.03 billion. Retailers were quick to jump on the Cyber Monday bandwagon with email marketing campaigns, special deals and discounts and targeted adverts being commonplace. It even became a Cyber Week with top retailers extending their deals to encourage consumer spending.

Some extra savvy brands ran social media campaigns specifically geared up to Cyber Monday shoppers. Successful campaigns tapped into the popular backlash towards Christmas shopping on the high street – capitalising on the convenience of shopping from the comfort of home.  Pizza Hut cleverly identified that such intensive online shopping makes for hungry work. This year they ran special Cyber Monday offers on Facebook for customers ordering takeaway online. Their premise: “You don’t have to fight the crowds at the mall. You can shop and eat at home.”

It seems where the high street fails online shops are thriving – they certainly triumph when it comes to price and convenience. Indeed with web retailers hurrying to recreate the offline shopping experience in ever more imaginative ways, it is hard to think of any reasons to brave the high street this season.

The Top 10 apps PHA Digital can’t live without

Image App Sphere

Image App Sphere

There are 5.3bn mobile subscribers (77% of the world population) and smartphones are the fastest growing sector. Add to this the 15 million first-generation iPads sold before the launch of the iPad 2 – and it’s clear how many people are accessing the internet while on the move.

To budding entrepreneurs and web start-ups this is a potential goldmine and naturally, a plethora of apps have appeared on the marketplace to cash in. So, when there are hundreds of thousands of apps to choose from, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?

Image App Store

Image App Store

Here are our top 10 apps, from the best time-killers, to the ones we simply couldn’t run our lives without.

  • Trainline

Mundane but oh-so-useful. After all who wants to spend their money on something as boring as travel?  Trainline has long been the go-to place where savvy train users make huge savings and this easy to navigate app gives you times and tickets in a few clicks.

  • Bump

The digital equivalent of a business card, simply tap your phone against another device with Bump installed and hey presto! Your photo, email address and phone number will be added to their contacts book… now that is smooth.


Do you shift in your seat at a misplaced apostrophe or avert your eyes from a spelling mistake? Then you (like us) are a language geek and this app is your idea of heaven. With an inbuiltThesauruss as well, you will never be lost-for-words again.

  • Spottd

Floxx the inventors of FitFinder have produced a second generation location-based app. The new-look version Spottd helps you locate cafes, theatres and anything else going on around you with reviews from other Spottd users to help you make the right choice. Billed as the world’s first ‘social sat nav’ it is all about connecting with others around you whether you know them or not.

  • Amazon

There is a birthday present for everyone on Amazon… And they do a wrapping service with personalised tags. Everyone needs this app.

  • Kindle

This is by far the easiest to use e-book app. It has 1000s more books in store than Apple’s iBook equivalent, although less visual frills.

  • ITV Player, 4oD catch-up, iPlayer

Whether your loyalty lies with X factor or Strictly there’s no longer any need to stay in on a Saturday night wrestling over the remote. Choose which side you’re on in the privacy of your very own mobile device and no one need know about your guilty pleasure viewing.

  • Colour Splash

Everyone has at least one snap-happy Facebook friend whose endless photo albums have resulted in you filtering them out of your newsfeed. Point them in the direction of this app and they will seem like a Photoshop pro in seconds.

  • TED

TED’s talks about ‘ideas worth spreading’, are unmissable and bite-size at 10-20 minutes long. Perfect portable viewing for the commute home.

  • Scrabble

Admittedly this is better on the larger screen of the iPad. Despite this, Scrabble have done a brilliant job at recreating this perennial classic for the digital world. Move over Angry Birds – the Scrabble app is a serious new contender in the mobile gaming sector.

Digital killed the television star

Every once in a while, the media landscape shifts. Radio enjoyed a reign of power for several years until the television industry began to take off in the mid-1930s. It wasn’t long before moving pictures were the medium of choice in households across the Western world.

Television has held a pretty strong monopoly on entertainment ever since. That was fine, until a few years ago when internet streaming became faster and more powerful, and the online world began to soar with constant new inventions, disruptive ideas and lightning-fast reactions to current events. The television industry instantly began to feel the brain drain as creatively minded young graduates were drawn towards funky start-up companies with AstroTurf meeting rooms and pizza Fridays.

Not only that, but producers began to fear that their audiences would be drawn elsewhere, and there was fuel for their concern. In a study from NMIncite, it was revealed that despite the fact that one-third of the social media population were under 18, only 12% of all conversation about television on social media sites came from the next-generation age group, begging the question ‘is television only being watched by the out-going generations?’econ-logo-rgb-largeIt doesn’t look great, but in my opinion, the television industry doesn’t need to panic. As with every industry across all sectors of the economy, the digital revolution represents a shake-up and an opportunity to demonstrate just how nimble, creative and forward-thinking your organisation really is.

EConsultancy recently labelled Twitter and Facebook “virtual watercoolers”, and they’re right. The incidental, ‘isn’t the weather terrible’ conversations that used to be reserved for taxi drivers and hairdressers has gone virtual. At any time of the night or day, we can tap into the chitty-chatty world of social media to air our opinions and see what everyone else thinks. That kind of Facebook or Twitter campaign is perfect for television – something whole nations have in common.

Sign in to Twitter during an episode of X-Factor and you’ll see what I mean. When Amanda Lily was kicked off the show a couple of weeks ago, the Twitter-sphere went into overdrive and a ‘twitition’ was launched within minutes, demanding that she be allowed back on the show. For a show like the X-Factor, a Twitter campaign is an absolute godsend. ITV have also been quick to encourage TOWIE viewers to take to social networking, setting up dedicated pages and reading out fans comments during the ad breaks. It’s ‘added value’, and viewers love it!

Digital won’t kill television anymore than television killed radio. The media landscape is as broad and varied as it’s viewers, and there’s room for more than one central player. Instead of panicking or burying their heads in the sand, television producers should be taming the beast, and integrating Facebook and Twitter campaigns into their shows to create richer content and more engaged viewers.


Cover image courtesy of Quinn Dombrovski,



Digital Darwinism

I recently read an article, which in a rather effective way, made me think about how we create campaigns in the ‘digital revolution’…

Brian Solis is a self-proclaimed digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist. In this particular article, he discussed ‘Digital Darwinism’. In which he defined it as “the evolution of consumer behaviour when society and technology evolve faster than our ability to adapt.” – So what does this mean?

Survival of the fittest, in this circumstance, is who can evolve with the ever-changing technology – depicting the opportunities from the gaffes.

Now, a brand I believe to be amongst the fittest in the digital revolution is Lynx.

Somehow the tongue-in-cheek humour in their digital campaigns always manage to make me laugh. And their recent addition is no exception.

What I find fascinating about their digital campaigns, besides the smart use of playful humour, is the way they use technology resources to enhance them. They are not shy of the fact that technology is developing rapidly, and the only way to stay current is to take advantage of this.

Their recent venture follows a string of successful digital campaigns, including Fallen Angel for Excite. This incorporated gaming, interaction and augmented reality – making the most of their online resources. Amongst this, the key message is consistently present throughout – that Lynx makes men appear attractive to women.

Solis interestingly quoted “What works against you also works for you. And, it is what you do now that defines your ability to compete for today and the future”. Lynx, owned by umbrella brand Unilever, choose which digital platforms are going to enhance their brand awareness and interaction. Their activity reflects their brand personality to a tee.

Solis continues to say nothing is too big to fail nor too small to succeed – I think these are vital points to remember. We have to be aware that not all digital outlets suit all brands. Surviving in the digital age means strategically choosing which platforms work best for your brand.

You can read ‘Digital Darwinism: Who’s next?’ here. Let us know what you think about this subject – do you think we can apply Darwinism to the digital era?


Cover image courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,

Editing videos for digital PR? Should you let Magisto do it for you?

The age of digital has opened up the playing field for home video makers and editors. Anyone can set up their own YouTube account and allow their home movies to be seen by a potential audience of millions. But with 35 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, competition is fierce, and making your video stand out from the crowd can require hours of editing and adjustments.
unnamedBut don’t panic – as of last week, things have just got a whole lot easier for you! An Israel-based startup has launched Magisto – a seemingly magical website that claims to be able to take your raw footage and edit it into a professional looking final product. Magisto even allows you to pick a soundtrack to accompany the video.

According to the makers, their algorithms (which they are keeping top secret) are able to identify people, objects pets and landscapes and their software will be able to pinpoint the best parts of the footage to include in the final montage.

According to Oren Boiman, co-founder and CEO of Magisto, the software is created for average people who don’t know how to edit videos. “They either post long boring videos nobody wants to watch, or they save them on their hard drive — unwatched, unedited, unshared. We made Magisto to give people a way to take their videos and turn them into movies that are fun to watch and easy to share.”


It sounds like a fantastic premise and from what we’ve seen, the resulting videos are fairly impressive, although it has to be said that they still retain somewhat of a ‘home video’ feel to them. All of the videos we saw seemed to run to a very similar formula and there is a prominent end graphic advertising Magisto’s services.

So if you work in digital PR, should you let Magisto edit videos for you? The answer, sadly, is no. This tool is aimed more at the home-video makers and is certainly not savvy enough to replace the human eye and years of video training.

We’re not making any plans to get rid of our state of the art digital suite anytime soon, but for amateur editors and flip cam enthusiasts, this tool is definitely preferable to posting raw footage – and it’s quite fun too!





Does your website cut the retail mustard?

It was recently revealed by researchers at digital agency Head London that poorly designed websites cost retailers hundreds of millions of pounds in lost sales. £500 million pounds to be exact. Based on information from Oxford Economics, the report named (and shamed) some retail giants for their poor websites.

The powers-that-be at Morrisons, Dixons and Phones 4 U will be kicking themselves for estimated sale losses of £314m, £32.6m and £17.5m respectively between 2007-2010. Tescos, on the other hand, were credited for gains of £255m thanks to their user-friendly online shopping system.

It clearly pays to take your virtual shop-front seriously. Web users take no prisoners when it comes to bad navigation on a website – they want specific results and fast. You can guarantee that – if they have once clicked away in frustration – they won’t be returning.

So what are the tools that make a website user-friendly and keep your customer on the page?

The key in my view is simplicity and logic. I want to be able to reach my chosen destination within – at the most – two clicks.

John Lewis have achieved a seamless website by thinking through every last detail of the user journey. Not only is their website foolproof to use, it is subtly laid out to maximise their sales opportunities.

When I hover over the tab labelled ‘Women’, not only can I easily click on ‘skirts’, it also shows me other related departments such as shoes.This is a mutually beneficial arrangement – I have the option to find some shoes to match the skirt I originally wanted to buy and John Lewis have taken me one step closer to another sale. The key to the success of this though is choice. It is bad online etiquette to take a user somewhere they haven’t asked directly to be. However, suggesting different, relevant options to them is helpful whilst still leaving the last call-up to the customer.

These basics are a good start to entice a user to browse your shop. However what if, once they arrive there, they want something more specific? A good search bar, optimised for an array of general and specific search terms is crucial. When I search ‘blue dresses’ on John Lewis, a helpful selection of blue dresses come up. I can even take this further and search ‘navy dresses’ if my tastes are more particular which still yields fruitful results.

The message for other brands to takeaway is clear. If you want to make a sale, direct people swiftly to the product they are looking for – in much the same way as a real-life shop assistant would. Hassle free shoppers equal happy shoppers.

Another very worthwhile website feature is an inbuilt memory system. Often a customer will take a few minutes, hours or even days to think about a product before they purchase. If they return for a second look, by remembering the details of their previous visit, you can give them one more (helpful) opportunity to buy. John Lewis online remembers the products you put in your shopping basket for weeks after you first added them.

This kind of tailored shopping experience is what gives online shopping that edge over trekking around Oxford Street on a Saturday. Shopping doesn’t get much more personal or convenient than this.

However, this online record of your user habits does have its disadvantages. After I leave the John Lewis website to watch a video on YouTube, I spy a John Lewis advert to the right of my video. It features the exact navy dresses I have just been lusting after – now that is a powerful advertisement. So it seems that with personalised shopping the inevitable result is personalised advertising. But that is another story for another blog post…