How brands will remain competitive in 2020

The commercial world is a highly competitive one and that makes it essential for brands – both small companies and global names – to respond to changes and adapt to survive

The commercial world is a highly competitive one and that makes it essential for brands – both small companies and global names – to respond to changes and adapt to survive. This is an era of rapid shifts, at least partly due to new and disruptive tech innovations and that puts a lot of pressure on brand names to be flexible and equally open to innovation if they are to retain their prominence. As the past year alone demonstrated, not all are able to make the moves they need to make to stay competitive, but then it has always been survival of the fittest in business.

Tough year for Brands in 2019

2019 proved to be one of the roughest years yet for companies in the UK, with a sizeable number of restaurants, pubs and shops across the country forced to close their doors. Indeed, one remarkable statistic uncovered by the Local Data Company (LDC) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in a study they conducted showed that the opening six months of last year saw 16 shops shut down per day! This is balanced to some degree by the fact that nine new ones opened each day, but it still represented a net loss of 1,234 shopping outlets during that period. Indeed, the major brands that hit financial difficulties in 2019 included Debenhams, Patisserie Valerie, Bathstore, Jack Wills and Karen Millen – while the likes of Homebase, Carpetright and New Look closed branches and cut bills to survive. Furthermore, this cannot be dismissed as simply a bad year, as the big high street brand names Poundworld, Maplin and House of Fraser were impacted the previous year. Unsurprisingly, many big brand stores are panicking and urging the government to step in, but it is difficult to see how the government can save brands that have simply failed to retain their relevance to consumers in the face of change.

The footfall of UK High Streets has decreased significantly
The footfall of UK High Streets has decreased significantly

The Ability to Adapt

Commercial markets are unforgiving and, while the rewards for staying on top can be tremendous, the punishment for failing to do so is just as great. One example of this is the online gambling sector, where competition is at its fiercest due to the sheer volume of sites that are available to the customer and the fact that it is a tech-based industry, so the cutting edge is constantly being sharpened. For sports betting or casino sites to remain afloat in this scenario they must stay on top of the latest technology innovations and figure out how to make it work for them. An example of this is the emergence of mobile betting a few years ago, which saw more gamblers look to use mobile devices to place wagers instead of computers. The companies that exist now are the ones that saw mobile gambling coming and invested time to prepare themselves for it.

When it comes to staying in front of competitors, offering enticing bonuses or promotions like free bingo and other popular games is a strategy that many of the top online gambling sites have used very successfully. This allows interested new players to try out the site and their games at no cost, before signing up. Of course, with all of the major and smaller sites providing these offers, it is vital that they are both financially attractive to potential customers and presented in an original and compelling way if they are not to end up being lost in the shuffle. Paying close attention to which games are the most popular among the users of a site and focusing promotions and bonus offers around these games is one way of achieving the best results. Knowing precisely which demographic the offers are targeted at is also essential if they are to be successful.

The Challenges that Brands face

The last two years have been turbulent ones in the commercial world, but 2020 is unlikely to see things calm down. There are several trends emerging that are set to be extremely influential over the coming period and that companies will need to respond to if they wish to stay at the forefront of consumers’ minds. One of these is the increasing demand from many customers for brand names to adopt an ethical and progressive stance on social issues. This is something that is particularly relevant to brands that are targeting the younger, university educated demographic, as research has shown that they are the most focused on activism.

These customers want to consume products and services from companies that demonstrate a commitment to making the world better. The response ranges from online gambling companies investing in promoting responsible gambling to companies committing money and time to advertising their belief in sustainability so that they can attract climate activists. Brands aligning themselves with progressive causes is set to be one of the big marketing themes this year.

Demands for more Brands to ‘Go Green’
Demands for more Brands to ‘Go Green’

However, it will not be the only one as the retention of long-term customers is another area that companies seem likely to focus on over the coming twelve months. The combination of financial concerns and cut-throat competition makes holding onto the customers they have more vital than ever to even the most established high street names meaning the need to develop new ways of rewarding customers for staying loyal to them. There has been little innovation in commercial loyalty schemes in the last two decades, but that has to change. Balancing the conflicting demands of attracting progressive young consumers without alienating older, long-term ones will be a challenge though.

The last two years have been hard ones for commercial brands and 2020 will be no easier, but they can look to industries that have remained profitable such as online gambling for some guidance. Firms face the prospect of needing to find ways to keep existing customers from looking elsewhere while also responding to the demands for ethical consumption from younger ones and those that survive will be the ones that find the right balance.