No prisoners: e-Commerce Uses Game Theory to Capture Consumer Share of Wallet thanks to Nash Equilibrium

It is that time of year again. Christmas shopping must be done and deals are flying in all consumers inboxes. Whilst reading ‘The Bargaining Problem‘ by one of my favourite Mathematician/economist, it got me thinking how we use the Game Theory on a regular basis in eCommerce reflecting on my Christmas shopping behaviour (both as a consumer and retailer). Indeed, the rise and rapid proliferation of technology has forced companies to adapt in order to stay relevant and competitive. Specifically, the consumer retail industry has recently navigated this changing landscape by utilising collected consumer data to make prices dynamic depending on seasonal factors, locations (international businesses) and even the strategies of their competitors. These companies are trying to harness the power of technology to achieve perfect price discrimination, where the seller knows every buyer’s willingness to pay and can therefore maximise retail prices without exceeding the buyer’s walk away price.

John Nash and the Equilibrium Point

John Forbes Nash Jr. (June 13, 1928 – May 23, 2015) was an American mathematician who made fundamental contributions to game theory, differential geometry, and the study of partial differential equations. Nash’s work has provided insight into the factors that govern chance and decision-making inside complex systems found in everyday life.

His theories are widely used in economics. Serving as a Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University during the latter part of his life, he shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with game theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi. In 2015, he also shared the Abel Prize with Louis Nirenberg for his work on nonlinear partial differential equations.

John Nash is the only person to be awarded both the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and the Abel Prize.

Game theorists use the Nash equilibrium concept to analyse the outcome of the strategic interaction of several decision makers. In other words, it provides a way of predicting what will happen if several people or several institutions are making decisions at the same time, and if the outcome depends on the decisions of the others. The simple insight underlying John Nash’s idea is that one cannot predict the result of the choices of multiple decision makers if one analyses those decisions in isolation. Instead, one must ask what each player would do, taking into account the decision-making of the others.

 

Game theory applied to eCommerce

In the context of e-Commerce, the retailer and the consumer are the two players. A game theory graph would illustrate the company’s best response to the consumer’s willingness to pay and the consumer’s response to the retail price the company is offering for the product. There would be no dominant strategy in this game because of the availability of information about other sellers and the access to other sellers the customer has in addition to the connectivity to millions of buyers via the Internet the company has. Either party can forego engaging in this transaction and just find another customer/company to sell/buy to/from. This can be illustrated with the given example (I read couple of articles whilst researching) of how Amazon dropped prices on Black Friday of a Samsung TV from $350 to $250 and decided on this final price using collected data, which allowed them to surpass the competition. Amazon took this a step further by hiking the price of HDMI cables, a complementary product, knowing based on consumer data that people are less likely to shop around in pursuit of the lowest prices for smaller items than bigger ticket items. The customers’ willingness to pay was any price lower than what the competitors were offering, which turned out to be the $250 (implying that no other retailer offered prices that low).

The implications of this show how companies are controlling not only prices but consumers’ perception of prices, thereby using this data to surpass the competition by limiting how consumers perceive the choices they have in front of them. Furthermore, this serves as an illustration of another way we experience a loss of control in our lives. However, another side of the argument says that perfect price discrimination can positively impact consumers, since their prices will be individually tailored. At the same time, this constant changing of prices can end up overwhelming and deterring consumers from purchasing the item all together.

As of now, it is too soon to tell how and if this becomes a normalised practice that we all must adapt to. It definitely is interesting to consider the ripple effects it will have on consumer behaviour in the future in addition to potential consumer protection regulation, as we are operating within a rigged sandbox where companies hold all the cards in their favour through informational advantages.

Recommended reading: http://file.scirp.org/pdf/IB_2014122310482155.pdf

Happy Christmas Shopping and bargain hunting

Benoit Mercier

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Speed is everything

When you launch a website, there are many factors that must be optimised, like checkout, but speed is the one you should really focus on. At the end of the day, if your website is optimised on all key conversion pages but your website is slow then it is wasted effort, believe me. Can the speed of your website really have that much of an effect on your conversion rate? Even if your site isn’t loading too slowly, can it still be improved?

According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.

This means you’re not just losing conversions from visitors currently on your site, but that loss is magnified to their friends and colleagues as well. The end result –lots of potential sales down the drain because of a few seconds difference.

How fast should be my website?

This is a question I get asked a lot. I have naively always thrived for the magical number of 2s but let me put it out there: ‘Not possible’! I know the stats and the graphs but for a retailer this number is fantasy. So what should it be?

Well in my opinion, you should do two things. Firstly, make sure that you are faster than your previous year. if you build a new website, it is not to be slower. There is nothing wrong to compare YoY. However, remember that it might not be LFL because you have changed the amount of content on a specific web page (i.e. larger images on your product detail page). Secondly, you should benchmark your key competitors. At the end of the day if you are faster than them then you can gain a competitive advantage.

Speed and google

Let me clear this one out. A slow website doesn’t currently harm your organic ranking. Will it change? The speed of your mobile pages currently doesn’t impact your mobile rankings, but soon it may, says Gary Illyes of Google. Read this article.

What tools to use?

There are plenty out there. For me, the best free ones are webtestpage and GA. I use them on a weekly basis and find them incredibly rich in insight. I know a lot of web developers use Lighthouse but for me it is rubbish. You can run the same tests 10 times in a row and you get huge variations.

Also, if you can afford it, find an excellent monitoring partner. I use NCC and they are fantastic. This is their area of expertise and they have some excellent tools. One that I am currently testing is their RUM tool that can predict how much cash you are loosing or potentially could gain if you were going to increase speed.

How to measure speed?

Speed Index. Yes you need to monitor your speed index on a monthly basis if not weekly if you have just replatformed. Read more.

There are all the KPIs you must look at:

  • First BYTE – The First Byte time is the time from when the user started navigating to the page until the first bit of the server response arrived.  The bulk of this time is usually referred to the “back-end time” and is the amount of time the server spent building the page for the user.
  • Render start – The Start Render time is the first point in time that something was displayed to the screen.  Before this point in time the user was staring at a blank page.  This does not necessarily mean the user saw the page content, it could just be something as simple as a background color but it is the first indication of something happening for the user.
  • DOM load – DOM ready means that all the HTML has been received and parsed by the browser into the DOM tree which can now be manipulated. It occurs before the page has been fully rendered (as external resources may have not yet fully downloaded – including images, CSS, JavaScript and any other linked resources)
  • Visually complete – Visually Complete measures how long it takes to display the content visible in the user’s browser: content “below the fold” and non-visual content (like third-party tracking beacons) is excluded.
  • Fully loaded – The metrics grouped together under the Fully Loaded heading are the metrics collected up until there was 2 seconds of no network activity after Document Complete.  This will usually include any activity that is triggered by javascript after the main page loads
  • Page weight – this is how heavy your page is with all the content

and then leave all other metrics to your web developers. Optimise all of the KPIs above and your CR will start to improve. How much will CR improve depends on how bad your website is.

Also remember to tests in different environments. For example, how fast is your website in a slow 3G environment vs. a 5mbps WIFI? Also adjust latency.

Conclusion

Ignore website speed at your own peril as the CR gains are potentially huge. You haven’t got time then appoint a partner. If you have invested in a Ferrari but it is as fast as a Skoda then you are burning cash away! Monitoring takes no more than an hour when you select key pages (i.e. homepage, category landing page, product detail page) and will give you a great set of focus with your web developers. Good luck.

Benoit Mercier

BOE stark warning…to the clown

The Governor of the Bank of England has warned that the major economic impact of Brexit has yet to be felt, but it was likely to spell a weaker economy, higher inflation and higher interest rates in the coming years.
In his latest attack on Brexit and Boris Johnson may I add, Mark Carney said that it should be seen as a prime example of “de-globalisation”, adding that it was likely to dampen UK growth, and that any fall in migration numbers could also push up inflation and force the bank to raise borrowing costs. At the IMF, Mr Carney said Brexit was “an example of de-globalisation not globalisation”. He added: “It will proceed rapidly not slowly. Its effects will not build by stealth but can be anticipated.”
The Governor said any fall in migration following Britain’s departure could push up prices in the UK, saying: “Abrupt decreases in migration could result in shortages in some sectors that have become reliant on migrant labour, and contribute more materially to inflationary pressures.”
Mr Carney also said that while economic growth remained relatively resilient so far, it could take many years for the full impact of the transition to be felt by the UK economy, pointing out that any fall in the value of the currency could take as long as four years to feed into domestic prices.
However, he said that there was only so much the Bank could do with interest rates: “It is critical to recognise that Brexit represents a real shock about which monetary policy can do little. “Monetary policy cannot prevent the weaker real incomes likely to accompany the move to new trading arrangements with the EU, but it can influence how this hit to incomes is distributed between job losses and price rises.”And it can support UK households and businesses as they adjust to such profound change.”
However, Mr Carney’s speech also suggested that wages could rise faster if the UK left the EU, suggesting the Phillips Curve – a measure of the trade-off between inflation and employment – could steepen as a result.
His speech did not add much detail to the news last week that the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee is now more open to the notion of an interest rate increase. He said: “If the economy continues to follow a path consistent with the prospect of a continued erosion of slack and a gradual rise in underlying inflationary pressure then, with the further lessening in the trade-off that this would imply, some withdrawal of monetary stimulus is likely to be appropriate over the coming months in order to return inflation sustainably to target. “Any prospective increases in bank rate would be expected to be at a gradual pace and to a limited extent, and to be consistent with monetary policy continuing to provide substantial support to the economy.”

Who would you trust, the man in charge of BOE or the clown touring the world? Do you really have to think 🙂

Benoit Mercier

Isolation is not good for me…Brexit a year on

I wonder if Boris Johnson and our beloved Nigel Farage listen to Fool’s Garden Lemon Tree song every morning. I feel the song was written for them by the Prime Minister Theresa May (take few minutes to read the lyrics and imagining Theresa 10 Downing Street with her ink and paper):

I’m sitting here in a boring room, it’s just another rainy
Sunday afternoon. I’m wasting my time, I got nothing to do.
I’m hanging around, I’m waiting for you,
But nothing ever happens – and I wonder.

I’m driving around in my car, I’m driving too fast, I’m
Driving too far. I’d like to change my point of view.
I feel so lonely, I’m waiting for you,
But nothing ever happens – and I wonder.

I wonder how, I wonder why yesterday you told me
‘Bout the blue blue sky and all that I can see is just
A yellow lemon tree. I’m turning my head up and down
I’m turning, turning, turning, turning, turning around.
And all that I can see is just another lemon tree.

Sing: dah…

I’m sitting here, I miss the power, I’d like to go out,
Taking a shower, but there’s a heavy cloud inside my head.
I feel so tired, put myself into bed, where nothing ever
Happens – and I wonder.

Isolation – is not the good for me.
Isolation – I don’t want to sit on a lemon tree.
I’m steppin’ around in a desert of joy. Baby anyhow I’ll get
Another toy and everything will happen – and you’ll wonder.

I wonder how, I wonder why yesterday you told me
‘Bout the blue blue sky and all that I can see is just
Another lemon tree. I’m turning my head up and down
I’m turning, turning, turning, turning, turning around
And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon tree.

And I wonder, wonder
I wonder how, I wonder why yesterday you told me
‘Bout the blue blue sky and all that I can see
And all that I can see
And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon tree.

Funny isn’t it? So what has happened a year on after Brexit was declared through a referendum? I wondered as when I returned from mainland Europe, a border officer asked me if I lived here, to which I confirmed and told him for at least another year. He laughed and we got talking about Brexit (to be fair it was close to midnight and not many customers). He was adamant Brexit would happen and it would be good for the UK. Of course, I had to argue the other way (not that Brexit won’t happen but that the UK will feel the positive impact). We did agree on one thing. He is not going to be made redundant anytime soon (Lots of Migrants in Calais waiting for that day).

  1. Theresa May failed election shows poor leadership going into the most important negotiation of the UK History
  2. Living standards hugely under pressure
  3. Pound falling sharpely
  4. EU skilled labour exiting
  5. House prices growth have halved

Failed gerneral election

The general election result has plunged Britain into political chaos just 10 days before the government was due to begin the all-important Brexit negotiations. Mrs May  teamed up with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which narrowly gave her the numbers she needs to pass legislation in the Commons, but it’s clear a significant period of political instability lies ahead. The split within the Conservative camp is greater than an Oak Tree.

It is hilarious to see Boris Johnson laying down his vision ahead of his boss. The power struggle going on currently is mismerising. This weekend plenty of dismayed Tory MPs – even some who share Johnson’s views on Brexit – are calling on May to dismiss him, while recognising that she is probably too weak to do so. One former minister said: “It is completely disgraceful. You do not write an article like that without consulting the prime minister and your cabinet colleagues. It is a complete abdication of cabinet responsibility. This is all about Mr Johnson, Mr Johnson, Mr Johnson, not about the interests of government or the country.” Another said that Tory MPs would be writing to the whips demanding that he be sacked as foreign secretary because he was a law unto himself and a liability: “He is deliberately tempting May to sack him but the awful thing is that she is too pathetically weak to do so. So we have a cabinet openly at war on the most important issue of the day and that is what we have to live with.” Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, a long-standing critic of Johnson, tweeted her disapproval pointing out that priorities should have been elsewhere the day after a terror attack in London

Leave Barometer: Negative

Living standards under huge pressure

Living standards still face squeeze as earnings have failed to keep pace with rising inflation.

The good news. The ONS said unemployment in the quarter ending in June was down 57,000 on the previous three months at 1,484,000. The jobless rate fell to a 42-year low of 4.4%. Employment was up by 125,000 at 32.1 million in the three months to June, the highest rate (75.1%) since modern records began in 1971.

The bad news. But despite the additional jobs and the acceleration in earnings growth, living standards remain under pressure because pay has failed to keep pace with inflation, which stood at 2.6% in June. Basically, if you received a pay increase lately, the reality is that you are saving less than a year ago (look at that difference in the graph below)

UK_pay_growth_picks_up_as_unemployment_rate_falls_again_Business_The_Guardian_-_2017-09-17_10.52.56

Leave Barometer: Negative

Currency dropping sharply

Winners from weak Pound

  • UK exporters who will be more competitive.
  • Foreign tourists coming to UK (a little ironic given context of Brexit vote!)
  • Foreign investors who find British assets/housing cheaper.
  • UK firms who earn profits abroad. (e.g. firms who have investments in the US)

Losers from weak Pound

  • Foreign firms exporting to UK (e.g. Irish farmers hit by fall in Sterling)
  • British holidaymakers going abroad will find US and EU more expensive
  • Foreign workers in the UK. Working in the UK is relatively less attractive (could reduce incentive for net migration to the UK)

So has the UK benefitted from a weak pound?

Britain’s trade position with the rest of the world worsened in June as the sharp fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote failed to lift sales of UK-made goods abroad.

The trade in goods deficit widened unexpectedly to £12.7bn, from £11.3bn in May, as exports fell by 2.8% but imports rose by 1.6% according to the Office for National Statistics. It was the biggest deficit in nine months and much wider than economists’ forecasts of £11bn.

The figures are the latest sign that a weak pound is failing to boost exports, despite making British goods cheaper abroad. The pound is 13% lower against the dollar than it was on the day of the EU referendum, at $1.2988. It is down 15% against the euro, at €1.1052.

Weaker exports in June were driven by a 7.9% fall to countries outside the EU, while goods exported to EU member states rose by 2.7%.

“The UK is becoming more and not less dependent on the European Union, whatever the result of the referendum last year,” said Edward Hardy, an economist at World First. “The numbers are a firm signal that the continent is still the place to be for selling overseas and making the most of the weaker pound.”

Leave Barometer: Negative

EU skilled labour exiting

More Europeans, especially from the East, have left the uk +36% vs. LY. EU migrants are leaving Britain because of uncertainty over Brexit, slower economic growth and higher prices. The slump in the value of the pound — down 14% since the referendum — and stagnating real wages have made salaries earned in the U.K. worth less when transferred abroad.

There has also been an increase in the number of racist attacks on immigrants in the aftermath of the referendum.

“The slowdown reflects uncertainty about both the current and future position of migrants,” said Douglas McWilliams, president of the Centre for Economics and Business Research

The U.K. government has pledged to bring net migration down to “tens of thousands” of people in the wake of Brexit. Net migration — the number of people coming to the U.K. less the number of those who’ve left — has slumped by roughly 25% to 248,000 in 2016. But businesses and experts have warned that the U.K. economy depends on the steady stream of immigrants and will be hurt if they stop coming. U.K. unemployment is at its lowest level in more than 40 years, and many sectors including hospitality, healthcare, tech and construction, are struggling to find staff.

Leave campaigners will have to be thrilled with this. Afterall this is what they wanted. I can’t help to wonder who is going to fill the gaps.

Leave Barometer: Positive

House prices growth have halved

The lender’s latest house price index showed that property prices were 3.8pc higher in March than in the same month last year, the smallest annual increase since May 2013. This was down from an annual growth of 5.1pc in February and far below the peak of 10pc reached in March 2016. Oh no, homeowners are now poorer than they were pre-Brexit vote!

Two options on the table to keep prices up, stop building new homes to tighten the demand, but then unemployment will go up.

Leave Barometer: Negative

Conclusion

So, not all indicators are as bad as I thought a year ago (predicted all of them apart from unemployment rate), but it takes no genius to take a step back and see that the Brexit decision has put the UK in a worse of situation. And the reality is that it won’t improve any time soon. In fact it will get worse. My father once told me that only imbeciles do not change opinion. Too many imbeciles still left to face the facts.

The UK political landscape is a joke and I hope that Jean-Claude Juncker squeezes those conservative clowns as much as possible. Would I want a hard brexit? No. But would I care if it did, no. Why? Mainland Europe will welcome me and my fellow Europeans (incl. my investments) with open arms. So who is to lose out in the whole brexit situation? 49% of those that voted to remain and 51% of those that voted to leave.

Benoit Mercier

GDPR explained and should we love or loath it?

gdpr

In the past few months, the amount of literature on GDPR has been increasing rapidly. Discussing the topic internally or externally, people do not know whether it is good or bad for business, nor do they understand the ramifications of these changes. Here is my point of view. Forget whether it is good or not for your business, the bottom line is that it is good for the customers. If you are a customer centric business like mine then you will welcome it with open arms. Of course, there will be painful conversations ahead, and people must remain pragmatic and make these changes bit by bit rather than all at once. Therefore if you read this post, crack on with it as it will come into play on the 25th May 2018.

Background

Back in the day, around 1995, the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC [DPD] was introduced. This legislation was the first of its kind at the time and it replaced some old school legislation that was out of date and allowed for all the new data legislation to be in one place. The legislation provided a detailed framework for data processing but now, 21 years later, the DPA has become significantly out of date!

Now, 21 years is a long time and you can do 7 undergraduate degrees within that time. So it is no wonder that within that period, the use of computers and the data this use creates has changed considerably, which, unfortunately, also means that the threat of cyber crime and subsequent data misuse has also increased.

Not only has technology changed immensely (and continues to do so), but the reliance on paper records has diminished. Funnily enough, floppy disks are no longer used (remember those!) and there are now a vast amount of storage options, as well as the mass use of social and professional media and the ongoing creation of Big Data, resulting in huge chasms in the 1995 legislation.

Some users have become somewhat paranoid and alert to the dangers of the growing risks and importance of data protection, being the savvy lot that they can be, however, the majority of everyday users (business or social) are still catching up to basic security measures.

A survey undertaken by the EU revealed that 74% of Europeans see disclosing personal information as an increasing part of modern life. But why are people giving away their personal information?

It seems that the most important reason to disclose this information is to access an online service. The most interesting result in this survey is the fact that 26% of social network users and 18% of online shoppers felt out of control of their own data.

What does the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) cover?

The legislation named the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, includes options such as the ‘right to be forgotten’, new rules on data transfers outside the EU, the implementation of data breach notification requirements and the introduction of much higher fines that are based on the percentage of a company’s annual turnover.

The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) explains that under the GDPR, the data protection principles set out the main responsibilities for organisations.

Click here for full access to the ICO website.

The principles are similar to those in the DPA, with added detail at certain points and a new accountability requirement. The most significant addition is the accountability principle. The GDPR requires you to show how you comply with the principles – for example by documenting the decisions you take about a processing activity.

Key principles of GDPR:

 

Coverage Scope

The GDPR covers all data controllers and data subjects based in the EU. It also applies to organizations based outside the EU that process the personal data of its residents.

According to the EC, the definition of personal data covers anything that points to their professional or personal life, including names, photos, emails IDs, bank details, social networking posts, medical information, or computer IP address.

There will be a Single Data Protection Authority (DPA) assigned to each company depending on where the company is located who will report to the European Data Protection Board. They must be appointed for all public authorities and companies processing more than 5000 data subjects within 12 months.

Accountability

Although previous data processing notice requirements remain intact, they must also specify the retention time for personal data and provide their contact information to customers. The Privacy by Design and Privacy by Default clauses in Article 23 mandate that data protection protocols must be integrated into the business development process itself. All privacy settings must be set to high by default.

Data Protection Impact Assessments (Article 33) have to be conducted when specific risks occur to the rights and freedoms of data subjects.

Proof of Consent

Article 7 and Article 8 specify that data controllers must possess a valid proof of consent for processing data and acquire special permissions for collecting the data of children under 13 from their legal guardians.

Instant Breach Alerts

Article 32 says that any case of data breach must be reported to the DPA by the controller within 72 hours of discovering the issue so that all parties involved can be warned about the situation and take precautionary measures.

Severe Sanctions

Instances of first unintentional cases of non-compliance will be doled out written warnings by the DPA. As a result, organisations will also be directed to conduct regular data protection audits. In case of graver offences, organisations may have to cough up a deadly fine up to 1,000,000 EUR or up to 2% of the annual worldwide turnover in case of an enterprise, whichever is greater (Article 79).

Right to Erasure

Article 17 empowers data subjects by giving them the right to request removal of personal data related to them on any one of a number of grounds, including cases where the fundamental rights of the data subject take precedence over the data controller’s interests and require protection.

Portability of Data

According to Article 15, users will also be allowed to request a copy of personal data being processed so that they have the freedom to transmit it to another processing system if needed.

On-premise private cloud solutions such as FileCloud help organisations to keep their data in servers within their firewall, while providing all the flexibility and access advantages of public cloud such as Dropbox. Additionally, FileCloud’s unique capabilities to comply with EU regulations, and features to monitor, prevent, and fix any data leakage across devices (Laptops, Desktops, Smartphones and Tablets).

What should you do if you want to transfer data now?

It has been advised that in this pre-GDPR time, that it is better to just avoid transferring data altogether, even though alternatives have been set out by the EU. A number of solutions have been made available to help with the problem of transfer, such as mobile e-discovery technology, predictive coding technology or e-discovery platforms and predictive coding, which can be used to ensure that relevant data is found quickly and deleted.

Transferring data across the pond looks to remain a complex legal process until the GDPR and Privacy Shield are fully confirmed and in place.

However, the legislations are not concrete and may still change, even after going live. Even more so in the light of Brexit, how will the UK adhere to the GDPR and its new shiny facets? Most people say that it won’t change but let’s wait for the Great Repeal Bill.

With the vast amount of alternatives that are available, it should not be difficult to find solutions to processing essential data during this time of uncertainty and it will hopefully be a progression for all internet/data/app users feeling secure that their data is secure!

Should you love it or loath it?

Love it, of course. As Anders Hilmansson puts it, there is quite a lot in it for you! If you comply with the GDPR adequately and effectively, you’ll have the possibility to achieve breakout performance compared to your competitors, owing to you having a competitive advantage. You’ll have what the Boston Consulting Group calls the “Trust Advantage” (MUST READ this paper): meaning that your consumers will entrust you with more data (compared to your competitors), which will lead to better online recommendations, more accurate targeting, faster development of new products and services, and several other benefits to you and your customers.

In light of the above – and taking into consideration that the value of Europe’s personal data is estimated to grow to nearly 1 trillion euros annually by 2020 – the GDPR isn’t a burden: it means business. (Even if most people currently preaching about the GDPR are keeping this a secret.)

Hope that clarifies it and helps put a bit of perspective

Benoit Mercier

Manchester United Stadium Tour

OT

It has been a while since I last visited a stadium, but my week off was always going to be a great opportunity. We went back home to Yorkshire. It was always in the back of my mind to go to Old Trafford but I had to be smart on how to deliver the news to my wife. An then the weather turned in my favour. After days of beautiful sunshine it started raining. 8am, woke up my wife, my kids, got dressed and got them all in the car. As we were driving my wife asked me where we were going. The question I had been waiting. My plan was either going to end badly for me or I was going to be the hero. I responded “you are going shopping to Trafford Centre while I am going with my son to Old Trafford. Her response…”great”. My cunning plan had worked to perfection.

11am, dropped my wife at Trafford Centre (with the plastic card…you have to make concessions in life!) and 15min later, we arrive at the most beautiful stadium in the World, Old Trafford

Manchester United Football Club

 

Manchester United Football Club is a professional football club based in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, that competes in the Premier League, the top flight of English football. Nicknamed “the Red Devils”, the club was founded as Newton Heath LYR Football Club in 1878, changed its name to Manchester United in 1902 and moved to its current stadium, Old Trafford, in 1910.

Manchester United have won a record 20 League Titles, a joint-record 12 FA Cups, 5 League Cups and a record 21 FA Community Shields. The club has also won three European Cups, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup. In 1998–99, the club became the first in the history of English football to achieve the treble of the Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

The 1958 Munich air disaster claimed the lives of eight players. In 1968, under the management of Matt Busby, Manchester United became the first English football club to win the European Cup. Alex Ferguson won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups and 2 UEFA Champions Leagues, between 1986 and 2013, when he announced his retirement. José Mourinho is the club’s current manager, having been appointed on 27 May 2016.

Manchester United was the highest-earning football club in the world for 2015–16, with an annual revenue of €689 million, and the world’s third most valuable football club in 2015, valued at £1.98 billion. As of June 2015, it is the world’s most valuable football brand, estimated to be worth $1.2 billion. It is one of the most widely supported football teams in the world. After being floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1991, the club was purchased by Malcolm Glazer in May 2005 in a deal valuing the club at almost £800 million, after which the company was taken private again. In August 2012, Manchester United made an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. The club holds several rivalries, most notably with Liverpool, Manchester City and Leeds United, and more recently with Arsenal.

Stadium history

 

Old Trafford is a football stadium in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, and the home of Manchester United. With a capacity of 75,643, it is the largest club stadium of any football team in the United Kingdom, the third-largest stadium and the second-largest football stadium in the United Kingdom, and the eleventh-largest in Europe. It is about 0.5 miles (800 m) from Old Trafford Cricket Ground and the adjacent tram stop.

Nicknamed “The Theatre of Dreams” by Bobby Charlton, Old Trafford has been United’s home ground since 1910, although from 1941 to 1949 the club shared Maine Road with local rivals Manchester City as a result of Second World War bomb damage. Old Trafford underwent several expansions in the 1990s, and 2000s, including the addition of extra tiers to the North, West and East Stands, almost returning the stadium to its original capacity of 80,000. Future expansion is likely to involve the addition of a second tier to the South Stand, which would raise the capacity to around 95,000. The stadium’s record attendance was recorded in 1939, when 76,962 spectators watched the FA Cup semi-final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town.

Construction

Before 1902, Manchester United were known as Newton Heath, during which time they first played their football matches at North Road and then Bank Street in Clayton. However, both grounds were blighted by wretched conditions, the pitches ranging from gravel to marsh, while Bank Street suffered from clouds of fumes from its neighbouring factories. Therefore, following the club’s rescue from near-bankruptcy and renaming, the new chairman John Henry Davies decided in 1909 that the Bank Street ground was not fit for a team that had recently won the First Division and FA Cup, so he donated funds for the construction of a new stadium. Not one to spend money frivolously, Davies scouted around Manchester for an appropriate site, before settling on a patch of land adjacent to the Bridgewater Canal, just off the north end of the Warwick Road in Old Trafford.

Designed by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch, who designed several other stadia, the ground was originally designed with a capacity of 100,000 spectators and featured seating in the south stand under cover, while the remaining three stands were left as terraces and uncovered. Including the purchase of the land, the construction of the stadium was originally to have cost £60,000 all told. However, as costs began to rise, to reach the intended capacity would have cost an extra £30,000 over the original estimate and, at the suggestion of club secretary J. J. Bentley, the capacity was reduced to approximately 80,000. Nevertheless, at a time when transfer fees were still around the £1,000 mark, the cost of construction only served to reinforce the club’s “Moneybags United” epithet, with which they had been tarred since Davies had taken over as chairman.

In May 1908, Archibald Leitch wrote to the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) – who had a rail depot adjacent to the proposed site for the football ground – in an attempt to persuade them to subsidise construction of the grandstand alongside the railway line. The subsidy would have come to the sum of £10,000, to be paid back at the rate of £2,000 per annum for five years or half of the gate receipts for the grandstand each year until the loan was repaid. However, despite guarantees for the loan coming from the club itself and two local breweries, both chaired by club chairman John Henry Davies, the Cheshire Lines Committee turned the proposal down. The CLC had planned to build a new station adjacent to the new stadium, with the promise of an anticipated £2,750 per annum in fares offsetting the £9,800 cost of building the station. The station – Trafford Park – was eventually built, but further down the line than originally planned. The CLC later constructed a modest station with one timber-built platform immediately adjacent to the stadium and this opened on 21 August 1935. It was initially named United Football Ground, but was renamed Old Trafford Football Ground in early 1936. It was served on match days only by a shuttle service of steam trains from Manchester Central railway station. It is currently known as Manchester United Football Ground.

Construction was carried out by Messrs Brameld and Smith of Manchester and development was completed in late 1909. The stadium hosted its inaugural game on 19 February 1910, with United playing host to Liverpool. However, the home side were unable to provide their fans with a win to mark the occasion, as Liverpool won 4–3. A journalist at the game reported the stadium as “the most handsomest [sic], the most spacious and the most remarkable arena I have ever seen. As a football ground it is unrivalled in the world, it is an honour to Manchester and the home of a team who can do wonders when they are so disposed”.

With every subsequent improvement made to the ground since the Second World War, the capacity steadily declined. By the 1980s, the capacity had dropped from the original 80,000 to approximately 60,000. The capacity dropped still further in 1990, when the Taylor Report recommended, and the government demanded that all First and Second Division stadia be converted to all-seaters. This meant that £3–5 million plans to replace the Stretford End with a brand new stand with an all-standing terrace at the front and a cantilever roof to link with the rest of the ground had to be drastically altered. This forced redevelopment, including the removal of the terraces at the front of the other three stands, not only increased the cost to around £10 million, but also reduced the capacity of Old Trafford to an all-time low of around 44,000. In addition, the club was told in 1992 that they would only receive £1.4 million of a possible £2 million from the Football Trust to be put towards work related to the Taylor Report

Old Trafford’s most recent expansion, which took place between July 2005 and May 2006, saw an increase of around 8,000 seats with the addition of second tiers to both the north-west and north-east quadrants of the ground. Part of the new seating was used for the first time on 26 March 2006, when an attendance of 69,070 became a new Premier League record. The record continued to be pushed upwards before reaching its current peak on 31 March 2007, when 76,098 spectators saw United beat Blackburn Rovers 4–1, meaning that just 114 seats (0.15% of the total capacity of 76,212) were left unoccupied. In 2009, a reorganisation of the seating in the stadium resulted in a reduction of the capacity by 255 to 75,957, meaning that the club’s home attendance record would stand at least until the next expansion.

 

The stadium Tour
Ok, as a United fan I have done the visit over 10 times easy in the last 15 years. This was the second time with my son (only 3 months old first time around). The first thing to know is that you must book your tickets in advance. They sell extremely rapidly so don’t risk it, book it. We parked at Old Trafford and made our way to the East Stand, where the entry of the stadium tour is. You collect your tickets at the reception and make your way to the third floor where the museum is. Of course, like any good business you have the ability to take a picture with the Carling cup and other trophies available (£20). You then make your way through the museum down to  first floor. There you await few minutes for everyone to gather (approx. 30 people). Your guide and security agent arrive and so does the stadium tour begins.
First you make your way to the North Stand where the guide tells you that United was the first stadium to offer corporate boxes. The cheapest cost £70k. Unfortunately the banner reminding City how long they had not won a trophy was not there anymore and that was the highlight of the tour many years ago. We then made our way to the East stand where the visiting fans are. The guide reminded everyone that United were the first one to make space for disable individuals and the first club to take them for away games (first away game was the champions League final in 1999). We make our way passed the police station (few jokes about scousers but can’t repeat them as too many friends there) towards the media room. I was really disappointed. Like at Leicester they do not let you sit down in the manager’s chair. This is new. I asked a French security guy later on and he said that it was down to security reasons. Garbage. it is down to economic reasons. The amount of tours within a day has been multiplied by 2. Starts every 10min. There are now 58 tours per day! At an average of 30 people per tour with each person spending a minimum of £20, it generates approx. £35k per day. A year, just over £12m revenue! Crazy right.
Now the best part of the man utd stadium tour. The home changing room is of average size, with a big mirror (nicknamed the Cristiano Ronaldo mirror as he spent 15min in front of it) and famous for Alex Ferguson for having kicked a shoe at David Beckham. I love the place. After all I played my last game there. Pogba is seating where I was, he is destined to be a great player :).
Finally, we make our way to the tunnel and onto the pitch (no time to stop taking a picture in front of the advertising board where players get interviewed in the tunnel (No way I am not going to do that, therefore I delay the tour by couple of seconds. Walking out of the tunnel reminds me of my last game, which of course I bore my son with the details.
The stadium tour finishes in the megastore (of course).
Overall, I was really really disappointed. I thought the quality of our guides was ok but if he had been given time, he would have been excellent (no explanation of the old tunnel or other anecdotes that I got when I first visited the ground). I am highly disappointed with that feeling of being rushed. Nonetheless, for people that visit it for the first time, it will still be a magical moment.
Official information regarding the stadium tour:

http://www.manutd.com/en/Visit-Old-Trafford/Museum-And-Stadium-Tour/Stadium-Tour.aspx

Cost: £18 adult £12 above 5 years old
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium Tour: 4/10
Overall mark: 8/10

Benoit Mercier

Leicester City FC Stadium Tour

lcfc

Last May, Leicester City FC made the improbable probable, they became Premier League Champions. You have to go back to 1995 and Blackburn Rovers to have a non-top 6 club crowned champions. I would even argue that in the modern game era, what Leicester have achieved in the biggest upset in sporting history. It was not a Cup competition in which you can sometime ride you luck (i.e. Portugal at the Euros or Liverpool in the Champions League…don’t make me wrong they are deserved winners but they had statistically better odds to create an upset due to the limited amount of game), it was 38 League games were they achieved consistency. I struggle to see when this feat will occur again whilst I am alive. Well done.

On Saturday, I got given by my wife a day out pass for good behaviour helping out with our newborn. I needed no more. I decided to jump in the car with the little lad and drive up the M25 and M1 to Leicester (2 hours journey). I must say that I was excited to go to the home of the Champions. I imagined that there would be countless amount of title celebrations stories, videos, etc. I was really up for it and keen to discover our 11th stadium. Just time to stop at Waitrose, buy few snacks and drinks and of we went…

leicester City Football Club

Leicester City Football Club, also known as the Foxes, is an English professional football club based at the King Power Stadium in Leicester. They compete in the Premier League, England’s top tier of football, and are the current reigning champions. Having been promoted as champions of the Football League Championship in 2013–14, this signalled a return to the top flight of English football after a decade away.

The club was founded in 1884 as Leicester Fosse F.C., playing on a field near Fosse Road. They moved to Filbert Street in 1891, were elected to the Football League in 1894 and adopted the name Leicester City in 1919. They moved to the nearby Walkers Stadium in 2002, which was renamed the King Power Stadium after a change of ownership in 2011.

Leicester won the 2015–16 Premier League, their first top-level football championship. They are one of only six clubs to have won the Premier League since its inception in 1992. A number of newspapers described their title win as the greatest sporting upset ever, or the best football fairy-tale of history. Multiple bookmakers had never paid out at such long odds for any sport. Their title win placed itself into English football history as one of the game’s finest ever achievements. Their previous highest ever finish was second place in the top flight, in Division One in 1928–29. Throughout Leicester’s history, they have spent all but one season within the top two tiers of English football. The club holds a joint-highest seven second-tier titles (six Second Division and one Championship).

The club have been FA Cup finalists four times, in 1948–49, 1960–61, 1962–63 and 1968–69. This is a tournament record for the most defeats in the final without having won the competition. City have several promotions to their name, two play-off final wins, and one League One title. In 1971, they won the FA Community Shield, and in 2016, they were runners up. They have also won the League Cup three times in 1964,1997 and 2000, as well as being runners up in 1964–65 and 1999. Leicester City have also competed in European football, and their appearances have come in the 1961–62 European Cup Winners’ Cup, 1997–98 UEFA Cup, 2000–01 UEFA Cup and most recently the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League.

Stadium history

In their early years, Leicester played at numerous grounds, but have only played at two since they joined the Football League. When first starting out they played on a field by the Fosse Road, hence the original name Leicester Fosse. They moved from there to Victoria Park, and subsequently to Belgrave Road. Upon turning professional the club moved to Mill Lane. After eviction from Mill Lane the club played at the County Cricket ground while seeking a new ground. The club secured the use of an area of ground by Filbert Street, and moved there in 1891.

 The “Double Decker” Stand at Filbert Street. Some improvements by noted football architect Archibald Leitch occurred in the Edwardian era, and in 1927 a new two tier stand was built, named the Double Decker, a name it would keep till the ground’s closure in 2002. The ground wasn’t developed any further, apart from compulsory seating being added, till 1993 when work began on the new Carling Stand. The stand was impressive while the rest of the ground was untouched since at least the 1920s; this led manager Martin O’Neill to say he used to “lead new signings out backwards” so they only saw the Carling Stand. The Club keep a maquette of it in their reception area.

The club moved away from Filbert Street in 2002 to a new 32,500 all-seater stadium. The stadium was originally named Walkers Stadium in a deal with food manufacturers Walkers, whose brand logo used to be found at various points around the outside of the stadium. It is now called the King Power Stadium. On 19 August 2010, it emerged that the new owners King Power wanted to rename the stadium The King Power Stadium, and had plans to increase the capacity to 42,000 should Leicester secure promotion. On 7 July 2011, Leicester City confirmed that the Walkers Stadium would now be known as the King Power Stadium. In 2015, vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha stated that plans were in place to increase the capacity of the stadium to around 42,000. Relocation to a bigger stadium has also been considered

The King Power Stadium has also honoured past greats of the club, by naming suites and lounges inside the stadium after the club’s former players Gordon Banks, Adam Black, Arthur Chandler, Gary Lineker, Arthur Rowley, Sep Smith, Keith Weller and former manager Jimmy Bloomfield.

 

The stadium Tour
Well my disappointment was as big as my expectations. I though the stadium looked bland and the front could have been the facade of any huge corporation businesses. Needless to say that I did not like the look of it.
After collecting my tickets in the fanstore to a Lady that was breathing some much happiness (me being cynical!), we made our way to the reception. A buoyant lady greeted us and asked us to make way to the Premier league trophy to have our picture takeni in exchange for a small fee (£10), I dully obliged. 30min after it should have started, (takes time to take pictures of everyone with the trophy) the guides (young lady, really dynamic and sociable and a young lad that had no spark in him) took us to one of the boxes. They are nice and cost approx. £25k a year. A bargain for those that bought it LY.
We then made our way to the press room, which was like at Man City but 10 times smaller. Really well equipped to Champions League standards. However, we were not allowed to take a picture in the manager’s seat! Really disappointed. Instead, we got offered a free matchday programme (wow that makes it better!).
We then got taken to the Referees’ room. Really spacious and luxury. Unlike the press room, you do not get to see the referee’s room on other stadium tours that we have been to, so that was a really positive experience. My son got to hold the substitute board.
We then made our way to the away and home dressing rooms. The away dressing room is of good quality (compared to Anfield for example) but the home dressing room is of high quality. Key interesting facts:
  • Away dressing room:
    • There is a hollow pillar in the middle of the room, which was put in just to annoy the away manager when he addresses to the team (can’t look at them all he must move around).
    • In winter they only serve cold water and in summer hot water. not sure if they really do that but same was said at Aston Villa…maybe something with the Midland clubs.
  • Home dressing room:
    • Like at villa, the dressing room is pitch black with blue ambience lights as the players like the relaxing atmosphere
    • They have a communal bath in order to allow the players to bond (I thought they were illegal nowadays!)
    • The players warm up in the showers kicking a ball trying to switch them on. After each home game they have to replace the broken tiles.

Finally, we get to go through the tunnel to the dug outs. Inside, the pitch is quality but I was expecting to see the grass cut into diamonds but the guide explains that the ref don’t like it as they struggle to signal offsides. The stadium is small and like the outside is bland. no fan banners, not much to stand out.

Overall, I was really disappointed. I thought the quality of our guides were poor (no stories to share with us, I almost wondered if they were lcfc fans) and the tour lacked excitement. For a team that achieved the impossible on the pitch, people meant to keep the myth alive are doing a poor job. For example, it would have been a nice touch to recreate the atmosphere of the final game of the season as you walk out of the tunnel or have many plasma screens showing the amazing season they all have experienced. Not to be.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:
http://www.lcfc.com/tickets/kpstadium_tours.aspx

Cost: £14 adult £7 above 2 years old
Stadium architecture: 3/10
Stadium history: 6/10
Stadium Tour: 3/10
Overall mark: 4/10

Benoit Mercier