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As a Comet fades, tech brands must rethink how, and where, to stand out from the crowd

Posted by David Marsden on 2nd November 2012

When I first heard the news of Comet’s demise today, I was sad. This means less shops to browse and buy stuff I didn’t need, but obviously want [I can hear Mrs. M: “What’s wrong with our old DVD player?”]. I then realised I haven’t been into Comet for years. I also then remembered that last time I visited Comet I left empty handed and disappointed — I went home and looked online. So, a bit less sad now.

But, this is still sad news: For one thing, we’re left with only one significant option for shopping on the high street (or retail park as is more often the case): Dixons Retail (that’s Currys and PC World to you and me). Best Buy thought there was an opening in the market. That didn’t work out so well. John Lewis and other department stores can be good options for certain gadgetry. But arguably Dixons Retail is now sitting atop a monopoly for anyone who needs a dose of unplanned gadget shopping (as I often do). The fact that its shares rose 15% today speaks volumes.

Sony has long had a visible presence on the high street. Apple has its own growing number of shrines to its gleaming gadgetry. Now Samsung is popping up in some prominent high street locations with its own eye-watering stores. In the tablet, smartphone and TV markets there’s a battle of the tech megabrands that will continue on the high street.

But still, if you’re a major consumer tech brand today, it’s increasingly clear that influencing online purchases is far more important than ever before. And this means understanding how people make decisions on which gadget they should buy.

The team here @EMLWildfire recently did some clever (and prescient) research into how consumers make their buying decisions.

This month alone my own dear Mum asked me which new LCD TV and smartphone should she buy. And should she buy a Kindle? I’ve obviously replied asking which banks she’s been robbing.

As a tech PR agency, our team members are often the tech-nut of the family, so we must be prepared for more of these questions. And tech brands – unless you’re busy building your own high street shops (in fact even if you are) you seriously need to rethink who you’re influencing and how. It’s changing. Fast.

So in summary: prepare yourself for a call from a confused friend this weekend shopping for one of the four new tablets released this week. And if you’re wondering why you’re being asked, go back and read our research again.

David Marsden

David is an Wildfire Board Director with the unusual position of being experienced in running PR campaigns in Asia having studied, lived and worked in the region. Having helped build Wildfire’s international network over the last 15 years, he now oversees and brings strategic insight to some of the agency’s most successful and longest-running multinational campaigns.