CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: NEW-MEDIA CLINIC - This online trailblazer could start revolution in high street retailing

It’s hard being a cynical journalist sometimes. I’ve lost count of the number of press releases I’ve binned that have announced Websites that are going to ’change the face’ of a particular industry or activity.

It’s hard being a cynical journalist sometimes. I’ve lost count of

the number of press releases I’ve binned that have announced Websites

that are going to ’change the face’ of a particular industry or

activity.



So when a release for something called Entertainment Express landed on

my desk the other week, I was unimpressed by its claim that its new

site, entexpress.com, was about to ’change the face of online

retailing’.



More fool me - although if you visit the site yourself, you might also

be unimpressed. For a start, the range of CDs and videos available is

pretty limited. It’s unexciting visually and has a URL that no-one will

ever remember.



On the plus side, however, its ’quick search’ facility works well and

its promise of free delivery, with orders placed before 1pm to be

despatched the same day, is certainly attractive. But it’s not this, or

the low prices (with products priced to match those in the high street)

that made me change my mind about Entertainment Express. The clincher

was the fact that its parent company is Entertainment UK - the

King-fisher-owned wholesaler which supplies about a quarter of the music

and video products we buy.



Whether the site’s any good or not - and at least it actually sells a

product, unlike HMV’s - isn’t really the point. It’ll get better, I’m

sure, as those responsible for its management learn more about what

their customers want. But the real significance of this launch is that

it may begin to change the face of music and video retailing in

general.



Consider for a moment how you would feel, as a high street retailer, if

your chief supplier suddenly went into competition with you. By

launching its own direct-to-home site, Entertainment UK has broken the

cosy little arrangement whereby producers supply wholesalers who supply

retailers who supply consumers.



Retailers are now out of the loop.



Of course, Kingfisher - which also owns Woolworth’s, one of the UK’s

largest retail outlets for music CDs - isn’t hell-bent on destroying the

retail sector. It is even making noises about partnering Entertainment

UK’s retail clients on the Web, to help them make the most of online

transaction opportunities. In a way, its attitude may end up doing the

slow-thinking retailers a favour. In the past, it has been too easy to

dismiss Internet-only music and bookstores, such as CDNow and

Amazon.



Like these companies, Entertainment Express will initially expect to run

at a loss. Even if it exceeds its parent’s wildest expectations, its

share of the total consumer sales market will be tiny initially. But it

knows there are huge profits up for grabs in the near future. The launch

of such a service by a company with proven staying power may finally

shake retailers - and their strategic consultants once known as

advertising agencies - out of their slumber.



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).