Regular readers will know that until January this year I worked for Woolworths — I wrote about my experiences. Since then I have taken an interest in the future direction of the brand, which was sold last month to Shop Direct.
The new, online-only version of Woolworths is not set to launch until this summer. However, it has already established a strong online presence, effectively utilising social media tools. What strikes me about this activity is that I cannot imagine the old Woolworths doing this — certainly not with as much success.
For the time being, woolworths.co.uk redirects to The Woolies Blog. This new blog is largely used to ask readers what they’d like to see from the new Woolworths, and keeps people updated on all their future plans. A common theme seems to be how the new online-only store is going to make pic n mix work, and I’m certainly interested to see how they crack that one.
There are also a good deal of nostalgic reflections on the old version of Woolworths. The sidebar contains links to classic Woolworths adverts (though disappointingly all but one of them are from 2006 or later). Readers have been asked what items from their Woolies memories they would bring back. The blog also covered the story of the last ever bag of pic n mix which sold for £14,500 on eBay.
Generally there is just a warm and fuzzy feeling to the Woolworths blog. You can see this most in the description of their team. All the teams even have their own cute little icon to represent them. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into little things like this.
It probably signposts the way the Woolworths brand will be developed by its new owners. A year ago Woolworths was stale and perhaps even tacky. Over Christmas the brand was tarnished. Today Woolies already feels more personable and friendly.
Woolworths now also has a Twitter stream, and they are doing a really good job with it. It is done with a good sense of humour. I do hope they get that kettle and fire extinguisher for their portacabin.
They are also using Twitter to ask followers about the five things from the past of Woolworths that they’d like to see back, with the hashtag
#woolies5. (I’m working on my top five, but I’m struggling to get beyond the payslip.)
There has also been a hint that there will be an e-museum. I liked the online museum that was part of the old Woolworths website. I doubt that Shop Direct will have access to all of the old material, but I do look forward to seeing how they will recognise the heritage of the brand, which they clearly have a lot of respect for.
I can’t imagine the old Woolworths being able to embrace Twitter and blogging and getting it the way Shop Direct have. The only sign of a sense of humour in the old Woolworths was some cheesy dialogue between Wooly and Worth.
All-in-all, Shop Direct’s approach to relaunching Woolworths is a great demonstration of how a business can use social media to build a relationship with its customers and to refine its offering. Their Twitter stream is an example that corporate use of Twitter doesn’t have to be annoying. It goes some way to disproving this website.
(Hat tip to Chris Applegate via whom I discovered the Woolworths Twitter stream.)