Retail and Ecommerce in 2021 Questionnaire

Click here to participate in the questionnaire

Here at Gekko we are always looking to better understand the customer journey at all stages of the shopping cycles in all categories. Whilst non-essential retail remains closed and we have, as a nation, been forced to change our shopping habits, we would like to ask your opinion on how you have shopped during the era of the pandemic.

You might have shopped more, shopped less, made the shift online, or are holding out for the stores to reopen. Please put yourself in the position of you as the shopper and your personal experiences to let us know more by answering the following questions.

All responses will be anonymous, and the survey should only take about 5 minutes of your time. The findings will then be aggregated to better understand how shopping behaviours have been influenced over the past year and possibly into the future.

The survey will run up to the 21st February, and we will collate the results shortly afterwards.

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Five positive signposts on the road to retail recovery in 2021

The data presented in nightly news broadcasts is a strange hybrid of bad news and good news. Of course, we have the all too familiar grim updates on hospitalisations and deaths as a result of covid. But we also now have a counter-narrative – the numbers of people vaccinated who can look forward to a fear-free life again. We may be in the midst of a lockdown, but hope is not only on the horizon but in front of our eyes and shortly to be in our arms. The best of times and the worst of times.

Retailers are also facing a mixture of challenging and hopeful data. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) recently revealed sales growth overall falling by 0.3% in a year dominated by the Covid-19 impact – the worst annual change since the BRC began collating figures in 1995. Yet this is hardly surprising, with the Government forcing retailers to close. Unlike in the midst of other recessions, we can be confident an unprecedented bounceback is looming. A recent KPMG/Ipsos study points to a sales growth of up to 3% for 2021, despite the huge challenges in the first two quarters. Indeed there are several signals that point to a swift route to recovery in 2021.

Weathered and tested

The resilience of retail has been a remarkable success story of 2020 in the face of continuing huge challenges. Throughout the pandemic, retail has been written off only to bounce back whenever it has been allowed to trade. This is evidenced by the figures for lockdown two. According to the ONS, the headline figure for retail sales volumes in November during the second lockdown were 3.8% lower than in October, ending six months of growth. However, the drop was smaller than analysts had expected and, remarkably, sales remained 2.6% above February’s level in the year to November. This was all the more impressive given lockdown forced many shops to close during the month.

Throughout the past 12 months, retailers have had to adapt their trading at short notice, whether closing altogether or introducing a variety of safety measures and still enticing customers to spend. They have also needed to embrace new ways of trading, from click and collect to virtual shop floors to having sales experts in call centres rather than in person. This experience and ability to weather these storms and still attract customers mean retailers will be in much better shape when the good times return.

A shot in the arm for consumer confidence

Retail has always needed and relied on a confident consumer to sustain itself. You feel hopeful about the future and you are more likely to splash out. Over the past few months, we have had a perfect storm of negativity. Daily charts showing exponential infection and death rates highlighting the problem now, with no end in sight creating a feeling of hopelessness. This has created a mental health crisis to add to the immediate public health crisis. However, just as the confidence has been sapped by one thing – the coronavirus, so the cure can be the vaccine – a literal shot in the arm for consumer confidence. Of course, millions have been negatively financially impacted by the crisis, but due to the furlough scheme, many have been protected in a way that hasn’t happened in previous recessions.

Indeed this was the analysis by a KPMG/Ipsos retail think tank, which said retail should be able to look to a brighter second half of 2021. Pent-up savings, demand, a more confident consumer and a successful vaccine roll out all point to a strong rebound. However, it also points to some consumer behaviours changing during the pandemic, with performance varying across different categories.

Retailers have embraced an omnichannel strategy

The pandemic has speeded up the adoption of an omnichannel strategy for many retailers that was probably overdue. Dunelm is a good case in point. Despite huge challenges in its retail estate, the company’s investment in the online channel has paid dividends. Despite all of Dunelm’s 174 stores in Britain being closed to customers, the company expects pre-tax profit for the first half of its financial year to be about £122m, up 33.9% on the previous year. This is due to the investment in online and the trend for home furnishing during the pandemic. Similarly, Dixons Carphone Warehouse announced pre-tax profits of £45m for the six months to 31 October with online sales up 145%. Those brands that have a strong online presence have been able to trade successfully and will benefit even further when their physical stores re-open. Particularly given the next key signal.

Pent-up demand for physical retail experience

Despite online retail’s undoubted increase of the share of the cake, reports of the death of physical retail have been greatly exaggerated. After each lockdown, there has been huge pent-up demand in evidence whenever shops have been allowed to operate. This is despite uniquely off-putting circumstances for consumers to venture out. While we are in the midst of a third lockdown, we know from the end of the second one that footfall increased by nearly 20% as determined consumers returned to stores. With increasing numbers being vaccinated, we can expect an even stronger rebound this time. I am really confident we will see an unprecedented retail re-emergence when the impact of max vaccination is felt. Even retailers like Primark, which recently revealed a £300m hit to profits, remain bullish. As Jason Bason, finance chief of its parent company Associated Foods, pointed out, when its shops had been open sales were only down 14% despite the restrictions. After all, if people are still wanting to venture out during a pandemic, we can be guaranteed they will flock to stores when we have the vaccines rolled out and no longer have to be scared of strangers. People miss the retail experience.

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’

One real trend we have seen during the pandemic is ‘shopping with purpose’. This is consumers wanting to make fewer journeys out, but when they do, not returning empty-handed. Our own analysis for the last trading period, December showed really healthy growth in conversion rates of 51%. This was due to pent-up demand and people returning to stores with a real purpose to buy. Again, the result of lockdown is to make the return to retail all the more profitable – something that can give retailers something to look forward to as we focus on getting through this difficult time. This particularly applies to categories like consumer electronics with higher ticket items and people less willing to buy online. The pandemic has underscored we may be less willing to venture out, but when we do we want to make it count.

While we are in the middle of a really difficult period it may be difficult to keep optimistic, but as we approach the end game of this crisis we can be sure that the public will want to celebrate their new-found freedoms. Retailers that have adopted the right strategies can benefit when good times return.

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Boosting your productivity and mental health for home working

While we may have wanted to start the year on a positive footing and ready for the new working year, the latest lockdown has made this a challenging time. For those able to work from home, it can be difficult to differentiate or define mentally and physically the difference between where you work and where you relax. With so many now having to face up to home schooling this adds a further layer of stress on an already tricky situation. But one consolation might be – we really are all in this together.

The New Year remains a good time to develop new positive habits and also recognise the bad habits you may have picked up. Let’s make the best of the situation and work from home productively while looking after our mental health.

Here we have outlined a few tips and tricks Gekko have used with our teams to manage and achieve the best work life balance with all our lives being within four walls.

Create a ‘home office’, however small

You may well have begun the first lockdown with a dedicated home office. Over time you may have witnessed ‘office creep’, increasingly working from the sofa or checking emails in bed. Have a renewed focus on creating a place you can separate from the rest of your home life. This will psychologically create an important distinction enabling you to switch between home working and home living. If you are able to use a separate room, close the door when the working day is over. This will help the active brain switch off from the thoughts of the working day.

However many don’t have the option of a dedicated working space but we can still apply the same methodology. Make sure you switch off the laptop, ipad or work phone and put them in a cupboard or drawer. Having a laptop out of sight will help put it out of mind meaning you can enjoy your evenings without being distracted. Make sure you do it every day to embed this as a habit. This will be your own version of leaving the office at the end of the working day – without the commute to have to contend with.

Support your posture, your lap shouldn’t be your desk

Working from home means it is all too easy to have no barrier between work and playtime. The ‘soft office’ is a phenomena that has developed throughout the country with a couch replacing your chair and your lap becoming your desk. This of course is bad for your posture. Look to find a more sturdy working space one that may emulate your office set up and ensure you have a chair that supports your back properly. One great tool is Upright Go, which can track and train your posture. This app also provides a visual representation of how you look when you are working. This can be eye opening.

One option is a Standing Desk for your Laptop. These are adjustable to suit any height and will bring your laptop to eye level, which is also perfect to present and work at.

For those using a monitor rather than a laptop screen there are great affordable options for a home office out there. Many brands have a range of different size monitors at reasonable price points to suit any task and will help you to lean into your laptop screen less.

Have a test week to monitor your productivity

You may have put boundaries in place when you first started working from home but over time they may have disappeared. These might be languishing alongside those plans to learn a new language or play an instrument. If they have, take some time to figure out out how you feel most comfortable and the ways you work which make you most productive. You might even start off with a test week where you assess your productivity and how long you are spending on different tasks.

One great exercise is monitoring how long tasks take. You can use a laundry cycle to monitor how long you have focused on one piece of work. Activity trackers like Rescue Time or Clockify are great for showing exactly where your time goes. You can even get Alexa or Google assistant involved. Set timers to get them to remind you to move onto another task or manage your workflow throughout the day.

Don’t skimp on breaks – schedule them in

If you have been working from home for a while it is easy to forget what a usual day in the office looks like. In some ways it is harder to take a break without the natural conversations with colleagues etc to break up the day. The day marches on without notice meaning lunch is grabbed on the hoof between calls. Also it is also possible not to see any daylight, particularly in winter months. This can all serve to burn you out, meaning you become less productive.

Combat this by planning your days in the morning. Add in breaks where you may have had them when working in the office. Your Fitbit should come in handy for this. You will be able to set reminders to take a break and track your steps. If you don’t make your 10,000 steps during the day it is the perfect excuse to get back out once the working day ends. One technique to look at is The Pomodoro Technique. This technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by a short break. This can help you reset your mood for five minutes with some soothing music or a set time to grab a cuppa or fill up your water bottle.

Boost your mood and steps with on the go meetings

Working from home can certainly feel isolating, particularly for those used to an office environment. However remember your other colleagues will likely feel the same. Schedule times for an all team video call or even walking meetings to catch-up. You can increase your steps and even set team challenges.

If you know you do not need to be in front of a screen for a meeting why not use it as a chance for some exercise? It can be a real win/win. Grab your trainers and ear buds and go somewhere quiet while participating in the meeting. Just make sure it is somewhere you can get good reception and limited background noise, just hit mute when you’re not talking and remember to unmute when it’s your turn.

Working from home may have its positives but it’s not always easy. Remember to not be too hard on yourself while adapting to changes you can’t control. The great thing about lockdown is it creates an opportunity to work ‘your way’, whether listening to your music or taking breaks when you want. Make the best of the situation to embed some positive new habits while working from home, even one change will make a difference.

To read the full article please visit Bdaily.

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Brands Don’t Lose That Human Touch – Time to Get Creative

Brand ‘touchpoints’ are increasingly becoming digital, rather than physical, in a world of social distancing. With physical retail in a cycle of lockdowns and people subject to ongoing restrictions, the world of browsing and the art of touch are becoming lost – a necessity of social distancing and hygiene measures. But this key ‘human’ sense influencing purchase simply can’t be replicated in the information-led, online realm.

Luxury brands immerse a consumer in plush carpets underfoot, theatrical lighting in opulent surroundings in glamorous locations complete with the meticulous attention of an expert who has your undivided attention, making you immediately feel the brand is worth it. But with all of these luxury stores having faced periods of closure, we have seen a large reduction in footfall across major cities globally. The ability to capture the essence of the brand online is compromised. The case in point is Burberry who is perhaps a brand more advanced in e-commerce approach to high-end retail. However, the company saw a decline in profits of an estimated 80% coming in at £42m for the six months to September. Other luxury brands are not immune either, with Mulberry reporting a 29% decline in revenue for the first half of the year, due to store closures.

So how can brands fill the void that perhaps we all took for granted and relied so heavily upon? The role of other ‘touchpoints’ becomes even more vital in creating a customer journey that captures the consumer imagination and creates intrigue in the brand to explore more and make a considered purchase.

The new nature of shopping

When retail opened after lockdown one, we at Gekko uncovered a trend that consumers, starved of retail, were returning back to store and shopping with purpose. The journey was necessary and, on arrival, the budget in mind was set and the expectation to part with money was resolute and implied. We looked at all of our return-to-store campaigns across the considered purchase CE sector, focused on 6 distinct categories of Computing, Mobile, White Goods, TV, Smart Home & Wearables, and measured them week on week. The result was that we saw an increase of 28% in conversion rate from demo to sale and 22% in the average basket value.

Now, the increases can be attributed to consumer behavior but also significantly to the assisted sale element of the customer journey that facilitates the sale. The socially distanced engagement remained personal to the shopper and the ability to ask questions was imperative in not only cloning that sale but also increasing the consumers’ spend.

The best strategy and playbook in this new world to maximize the other senses to really sell a brand’s quality are a challenge. We must, therefore, meet the need to make traditional retail a destination worth a consumer’s time and safety.

The voice

Key to this is voice: A trained sales advisor, who can extol the virtues of a product and close a sale even if this is over the phone with outlets locked down or in person with a shopper making a ‘purpose-driven’ shopping visit. To engage the advisor in training, brands and retailers must adhere to covid-secure protocols, so the approach also needs to be reimagined. By keeping it succinct and energetic, and not like training but more a story with several chapters, some yet to be written but lined up to create excitement. By taking it virtual you can still be engaging if you follow the same approach and have the same energy as being in the same room – as if it’s still personal. Online, it’s a harder sell but call it engagement rather than training and it can become more creative. Gamify the process and link it to rich online content from your website, also advertising campaigns and events.

Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success in retail. It starts with effective product launches and is something that traditionally relies on face-to-face engagement and hands-on time with new products. Again, the lockdown has forced us all to think differently about the approach. A virtual approach can enable brands to create genuine excitement for new product launches, engaging retail sales staff and cascading knowledge and know-how to them, again making them more effective in their shopper conversations.

Don’t lose your touch

Touch: Displays of action and demo devices demarcated or constantly wiped down more often than they would probably do if in your possession as your own device. Keep it straightforward and clean. Stand back, encourage play, and keep the conversation flowing using open questions. Learn through specific questions and examples about the customers’ usage habits, likes and dislikes about their current device, and link to features you know are relevant to the user.

When it comes to effectively demonstrating products to shoppers, creative thinking can pay dividends. With some of the limitations indicated above, brands can take the initiative and facilitate the demo experience. Think creatively! Another initiative we implemented was taking the demo to the store and controlling the experience whilst on site. The brand was able to tell the story in their own distinct voice.

Leave a lasting memory

Finally, think about the memory that consumers will be left with. Poor knowledge and advice – when asked for – and an ill-thought-out display will create a negative lasting impression. Missing product information, price tickets, and the devices not being demo-ready will all provide a bad customer experience. The decision to purchase should create a smooth transaction for the customers and, if not in stock, it shouldn’t be a problem. The retail sales advisor should be able to order it online enabling the customer to click and collect or have it delivered. If in stock, the customer should be looked after through to the point of transaction and be on hand to answer any question on set-up and integration of the new device further validating their purchasing choice.

The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the game-changer that increases conversion rate and average basket value, achieved either through a higher purchase price or connection sale and, perhaps, an advocate of both brand and retailer. This is much harder to achieve online and never as gratifying for the end-user as a customer journey that enhanced the individual’s perception of the brand, and worth in relation to their own very personal budget.

As a brand, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and consider what you aspire to achieve, and redouble your efforts. Use this personal approach to enhance the customer journey, engaging in the most effective manner possible with your target consumers. This begins with training that grabs the imagination. Explain creatively how to tell a personal story on the shop floor, that envelopes the consumer, enough to become a customer through informed choice and not merely through distress or promotion. In a world of reduced physical contact, we need to think creatively to ensure brands stay in touch with the needs of their customers.

To read the full article please visit Branding Mag.

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Video Call Interview Hints & Tips

When lockdown began in March 2020, Gekko made the decision to move all of our face to face interviews over to video interviews. This meant we could keep everyone safe while searching for some fantastic people to join our vibrant team. 

It looks as if video call interviews will be the way forward for the time being and Gekko will not be the only company adapting their interview process.

We chatted to our Recruitment Manager and put together  some simple hints and tips for preparing for video interviews and landing that dream job in 2021;

  1. Testing, testing…1,2,3

You should be advised prior to the interview of the platform that will be used for your interview so make sure you are familiar with how it works and download any apps if required. 

You could always ask a friend or family member to do a test run with you so you can check your audio and webcam in advance. On the day, make sure your device is well charged and connected to a strong wifi connection to avoid disruption. 

  1. Pick the perfect location 

Think about your positioning at home for the interview, you wouldn’t take a family photo with you to a face to face interview so do you want them on display in the background? 

Where possible, place yourself against a plain background with no reflections from windows, make sure where you are sitting is comfortable so you don’t fidget and ensure the area is quiet with no distractions or interruptions. 

  1. Dress accordingly 

You might be sitting on the sofa for the interview, but it is still an interview and your opportunity to make that first impression as professional as possible. 

Dress as you would if you were to attend the interview face to face but also think about how your clothes may look on the screen – it is best to avoid busy patterns. 

  1. Try not to fidget

It can sometimes be hard to engage with your interviewer when you are not in a face to face setting so your body language is really important. Be comfortable, but don’t slouch, try not to fidget or touch your face too much. 

Listen and respond to the questions clearly, don’t rush your responses in case there is a slight delay. 

  1. Be prepared

Prepare yourself as you would for any interview; do research on the company, ensure you understand the role you are applying for, have a copy of your application or CV in front of you and have some questions ready. 

There are some plus points to video interviews so take advantage of them: have post it notes stuck to your screen or make yourself flash cards about the company and the role. 

We hope the hints and tips from our Recruitment Manager help you prepare for upcoming video interviews and allow you to give out the best first impression possible. 

Technology may work against you meaning not every interview goes smoothly but we would also like to remind you to be kind to yourself while adapting to changes. The company will understand if you have technical issues just ensure you give the company enough time to rearrange the interview or plan another option.

You are doing the best you can, keep it up and Good Luck!

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How Brands Can Still Engage the Senses in a Socially Distant World

The ability to engage all the senses has been an integral part of building brands for the past hundred years, particularly luxury ones. Yet the separating nature of the pandemic and the rise of ecommerce means they are in danger of losing their ability to engage all the senses. In a world of stay at home measures, social distancing and reduced browsing opportunities, brands need a new approach.

The immersive luxury experience

Luxury brands have always succeeded through their ability to provide an immersive experience for consumers. From wonderful lighting, an alluring product display and a beautiful carpet underfoot, all set in a glamorous location. Of course complemented by the soothing voice of a sales expert who provides a customer with their full undivided attention. It is a magic formula that helps make a premium price tag seem justified, enhancing a brand’s reputation.

But in a world where populations have been forced to retreat behind doors and spend more time behind screens, the world of luxury has been forced into retreat. These intangible brand qualities simply can’t be replicated in the information heavy online world. The figures paint a stark picture. Worldwide the sector is set to contract by a fifth in 2020. Burberry is perhaps a brand more advanced in e-commerce approach to high end retail. Yet, the company saw a decline in profits of an estimated 80% coming in at £42m for the six months to September. Other luxury brands have also felt the pain. Mulberry has recently announced it may have to close its London stores.

So in a world of social distancing, how can brands adapt and still create memorable customer experiences leading to sales? Particularly in a world where our opportunities to physically touch and engage with brands have been so reduced. A customer has to be taken on a journey, their imagination needs to be fired up and enough interest and excitement should be created to inspire them to make a purchase.

The trusted voice of an expert

Key to this is ‘voice’: Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success. Having an advisor who truly understands the product and can close a sale is key, even if this is on the phone in a world of dramatically reduced football. We have also identified a clear pandemic trend of ‘shopping with purpose’ when retail is allowed to open. People are looking to make less trips but ensure they have something to show for it. Therefore a human expert who has the empathy to respond to a customer’s specific needs should be deployed to maximum effect. This is something that cannot be replicated with product information on a website. With these advisors the key advocate for the brand – the process of training these experts needs to be thought through.

Advising the advisors

In a world of social distancing, the way to engage these advisors needs to be reimagined, adhering to covid secure protocols. Brands should focus on reaching these experts through virtual methods. Without the ability to deliver a message face to face, they need to make the experience as immersive and engaging as possible. Training should be gamified and linked to rich online content from their websites.

In a single week during the UK’s second lockdown, Gekko engaged with 1,476 participants from a major retailer, all done virtually, covering 6 unique brands across different categories. The inline sessions were created with the audience in mind and covering an average of 24 products the retailer needed to know about because they featured in the retailer’s Black Friday offers. This approach meant we could actually reach more people than we could ever have in person. It activated an army of advocates to help close vital sales.

A new vision for brands

To complement the advisor, the visual experience is more important than ever in a world where browsing opportunities may be reduced due to hygiene measures. Ensure you are able to bring a product to life visually with great lighting, an appealing display and clearly labelled offers. Once they have been enticed in, keep it straightforward, clean, stand back, encourage play (in a covid secure manner) and keep a great conversation going using open questions to find out more about the customer’s likes and dislikes and needs.

When it does come to effectively demonstrating products to shoppers, creative thinking can pay dividends. With some of the limitations indicated above, brands can take the initiative and facilitate the demo experience. In a ‘purpose-driven’ world we’ve been able to see increases of 28% in conversion rate from demo to sale. There is a golden opportunity for brands to engage all the senses with a shopper determined to make a purchase.

Imprinting a memory

Finally brands should ensure they leave a strong imprint on the ‘memory’. The reality is people are far more likely to remember a bad experience with a brand, so ensure you minimise any opportunity for negative feedback. Don’t leave a poor display or have missing product information. Ensure the product is always demo or display ready. No customer should leave disappointed. Even if it isn’t in stock, the advisor should be able to order it online with the customer able to click and collect or have it posted out. Particularly given the customer’s likely desire to minimise further trips.

Similarly the customer journey shouldn’t end at the point of agreeing the sale. Their hand should be held (metaphorically not literally in today’s world), until the transaction. Advisors should also be on hand to answer any follow up questions about the use of the product once taken home. Often these questions only spring to a customer’s mind after the actual sale has been agreed.

The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the glue that binds a customer to a brand for the long term. This is much harder to achieve online and also crucially never as memorable for a customer in a price-driven environment with far more fickle brand loyalty. Being forced to do things differently and really focus on new creative ways to engage customers is no bad thing. Those that are able to do this effectively and engage all the senses will see the benefit when the good times return.

To read the full article please visit Brand Chief.

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Four positive signals of a happy new year for retailers in 2021

The resilience of retail has been a remarkable success story of 2020 in the face of continuing huge challenges. The pandemic has forced new ways of trading, from the obvious ways of ensuring COVID-safe spaces to rethinking how to target consumers spending the majority of their lives at home. For the retailers left standing, this period of dramatic change will have stiffened their sinews and made them lean, adaptable and ready for when the good times return. There are encouraging signs and we’ve looked at some recent data that provide four signals for real optimism about 2021.

Retailers embrace an omnichannel strategy
The first lockdown came as a hammer blow to the industry. With retail outlets shut throughout the country, consumers shifted rapidly online and overall sales fell sharply . Despite this, the growth in ecommerce couldn’t make up for the volume lost through the doors of physical retail. While the first lockdown was a shock to us all, this time retailers have been far better prepared. The BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor for November revealed that footfall across all UK shopping destinations fell by 65.4 per cent compared with the same month last year, due to England’s lockdown. According to the ONS, retail sales volumes last month were 3.8 per cent lower than in October, ending a six months of growth. However the drop was smaller than analysts had expected and sales remained 2.6 per cent above February’s level, in the year to November. This was all the more impressive given lockdown forced many shops to close during the month. Indeed Dixons Carphone’s recently released half year results indicating a strong performance despite the challenges.

This shows the ongoing resilience of retail with retailers coming up with the right enticing offers to encourage spending. They had adapted to the changed circumstances and ensured they could reach consumers instore or at home. In 2020 the old online/ offline dichotomy has become more irrelevant with all brands and retailers needing an omni-channel strategy to ensure they can best respond to the needs of customers. This is the best way to remain relevant and operate in the future.

Pent up demand for physical retail experience
Despite online retail’s undoubted increase of the share of the cake, reports of the death of physical retail have been greatly exaggerated. After each lockdown there has been huge pent up demand in evidence whenever retail has been allowed to operate. This is despite uniquely off putting circumstances for consumers to venture out. Recent data shows a bigger picture of the return to stores following the lifting of lockdown 2, with footfall increasing by over 19.9% as determined consumers returned to stores ready to purchase after weeks away. High streets and shopping centres have been the real drivers of growth, having suffered the most in November.

Our own analysis of consumer behaviour based on in store behaviour, the G-Index,  has continually been updated post lockdown and we now have over 200 responses from around the country in various stores. 47% remain happy coming into stores, while there has been an increase in those feeling cautious. With that in mind, 90% of retailers have staff on the door managing footfall amongst many other measures designed to maintain a safe environment for all customers. They have impressively reacted to ensure they are COVID safe and have made sure they have communicated this to their shoppers. They have responded in a responsible and agile manner and generated enormous good will that will stand them in good stead for the future. After all if people are still wanting to venture out during a pandemic, we can be guaranteed they will flock to stores when we have the vaccines rolled out and no longer have to be scared of strangers.

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’
One real trend we have seen during the pandemic is ‘shopping with purpose’. This is consumers wanting to make less journeys out but when they do, not returning empty handed.Our own analysis for December is showing a healthy growth in conversion rate of 51%. This was due to pent up demand and people returning to stores with a real purpose to buy. This is particularly the case with categories like consumer electronics with higher ticket items and people less willing to buy online. We may be less willing to venture out but when we do we want to make it count. Smart brands and retailers have realised this and have really focused on making the most of these opportunities for engagement. A great retail environment and well thought through customer experience is always crucial but never more so than now. Additionally a recent IDC Retail Consumer Insights Survey found that 59% of global customers are likely to shop elsewhere if they can’t buy online and pick up in-store. In comparison, 48% said they’d find another retailer if they can’t see in-store availability online.

The rise in prominence of the trusted sales expert

As we have been beset with Amazon packages we have realised something very crucial through absence, namely the importance of a trained expert to provide guidance and advice. For big ticket items, we simply haven’t been able to get the advice we need with information online perhaps answering the ‘what’ a product does and ‘how’ it works but is never able to respond to our unique reasons of ‘why’ we need it. This has been demonstrated by the impressive conversion rates we have witnessed of demonstrations leading to sales. When parting with a significant sum on considered purchases we want to speak to a human who can understand a product’s role in a customer’s life and make recommendations. A further investment in these experts will represent a smart strategy for the next year.  Of course this advice can also be given on the phone in a world of social distancing and many brands have invested in staff in call centres to answer more specific questions about how products can fit into changed lives.

While the vaccine offers the promise of a return to a more normal life, we will all be changed by this experience. Despite the tough times, retailers have shown the strength and adaptability to respond to customers’ changed needs. As the clock chimes midnight this New Year’s Eve perhaps we can be confident we can mean it this time when we say ‘Happy New Year’.

To read the full article please visit Retail Sector.

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Four strategies for mobile brands looking to build market share in 2021

Revised forecasts from IDC predict smartphone sales will have declined by 12% overall in 2020. Against this backdrop, the traditional approach to growing market share for mobile brands is as dated as music festivals, theatre trips or weddings. Instead, brands have needed to adapt innovative new strategies to weather the turbulence, respond to changing consumer needs and come out stronger. A 2019 playbook simply won’t cut it in a continuing world of social distancing and faded touchpoints. Here are four strategies for mobile brands looking to expand market share in 2021.

Focus on establishing credibility

It goes without saying, but it has been a very tough year for challenger brands, with consumers gravitating towards brands they already know. Market leader Apple has expanded market share in the UK from 49% in October 2019 to 53% in October 2020. In this new environment, it has been very difficult for new entrants to promote themselves and establish themselves in consumers’ lives, especially with the reduction in opportunities to physically see and touch a new product. Consumers will want to invest their hard-earned cash and goodwill into credible brands that they know and are likely to stay. Key to this is a brand that has a great portfolio, strong supporting ecosystem, great customer service and the marketing vision and ability to build a credible trustworthy brand. For those wanting to make inroads, they will need a best in class distribution strategy and the ability to really differentiate and personify a brand.

Build in-store knowledge and advocacy

A vital component for any brand intent on gaining market share is how the brand builds knowledge and advocacy among those tasked with selling the devices. This includes retail sales advisors and contact centre sales teams. When premium devices are pushing £1,000+, the customer also wants to have a touch and play, especially when moving into a new brand. While we are spending more of our lives on digital channels and less in shops, the fact remains that when people are shopping they are doing so with ‘purpose’. In other words, they are intent on buying something. A proof point for this is that we have seen conversion rates of over 40% of product demonstrations leading to a sale. Therefore having the right skilled staff in-store to make the sale on more infrequent trips is critical. Consumers also trust brands they can see in stores, as that lets them know that, as a brand, you are committed to the marketplace.

Being quick to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances

In today’s world, it is hard enough to plan two weeks ahead let alone six months. Therefore quick thinking and flexibility are critical. Brands have needed to adapt quickly to sudden government decisions, such as the two national lockdowns and various local restrictions we have seen. Many of the brands I work with have transitioned their activities back into distance sales with as little as five days’ notice. An omnichannel strategy has been needed with non-physical channels critical in 2020. Despite non-essential retail being closed, effective brand engagement continues through innovative e-learning and e-commerce. Many consumers upgrading or shopping for new devices won’t have the option of heading to the high street so have gone down the online or contact centre route. Brands that have been able to switch to providing virtual training and support to these channels have seen positive results.

Premiumisation is a good long-term strategy

A recent report by Counterpoint indicates that the wholesale average selling price (ASP) of the global smartphone market increased by 10% in 2020 despite a decline in shipments and the decline in premium products was less steep than the overall average. The reason being, there has been less economic impact on premium smartphone users. Huawei is a good example of a brand that established itself in the premium category in a relatively short space of time. To succeed in this marketplace, there needs to be a real focus and clarity on what your brand stands for and where you want it to go. A halo effect can drive the overall success for a brand. Driving customer buy-in at the mid- and low-level remains important, but solely targeting the lower- and mid-tiers will cause problems in the future. This is because you will need to buy your way into the premium market. The unintended consequence is that a brand can find itself in a low tier hole that is extremely hard to get out of.

While the market remains challenging, the brands that succeed are the ones able to adapt and respond to the changing needs of consumers. This customer-centricity is what has underpinned the success of innovative mobile companies over the past decade and will be the foundation for success whatever the next year holds.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Get back to where you once belonged – IFA 2020 Review

IFA 2020 is a much smaller, intimate socially distanced affair in Berlin. The event organisers have done a superb job at keeping the CE industries key event open all be it, not to the general public.

I am here as a guest to sit through keynotes from the industries great and good however more exciting is the next gen events running alongside these.

The Corona effect has impacted the industry at a global level and as we come out of having spent quite possibly the longest continued time than normal in our own homes, consumer’s desire for new technology to enhance their space has grown. The industry knows this and my business has seen this since retail reopened with an average conversion to sale of over +60% and ABV increase by +10%.

Drivers to purchase range from distress to replacement but also upgrade, desiring the latest in smart CE to complement the extra time we are now spending at home but also just in case we are forced to spend another lengthy lockdown in our cribs.  

One of the long-term effects of lockdown has been that people are now spending more time at home, by choice, centred around the kitchen meaning that more of what we consume needs be made or prepared using technology. This extends to how we wash not only those pots, pans, crockery etc. but also how we clean our clothes and our homes, in addition to working from home and socialising. Brands within the category have jumped to call of more innovation, more integration, and more space. The design of the home is evolving faster due to Coronavirus making consumers keen to enhance their quality of life at home through smart technology whilst not compromising on aesthetics.

A brand that seems to have designed to meet this challenge post lockdown is BSH, which has added not only smart technology to its range but also a third shelf in its dishwashing range. It’s also increased the size of its freezers with an extra 26cm of cubic space. Its neat invention, Connected Cookit, is a multifunction food processor with cooking functions that cooks up to 200 degrees. It’s a slow cooker, but not as you know it – it makes it, cooks it and connects to your voice assistants and your smart devices so you can control it remotely. This connectivity extends to BSH ovens, dishwashers etc. from your Fitbit whilst you venture out for a run meaning that you can still be in the kitchen, when you’re not.

Innovations include changing hues of ambient lights on hoods, dishwashers etc. to match your mood or interior and also programming your coffee machine to make the perfect cup of coffee just as you, your family and your guests like it, bringing the barista out in you.

Investment in R&D are the key shout outs this year across all brands showcasing at IFA this year. Amongst the largest was $100bn from Huawei’s who are committing to developing technologies encapsulated in an initiative called ‘1+8+N seamless connected living’ on which Huawei is in the first chapter and that enable a connected future for all. In reaction to the US sanctions imposed on Huawei and those who worked with the brand, Huawei have risen to the challenge admirably engaging directly with almost 460m monthly active users, 33m in the EU alone. The App Gallery is the third largest app store globally, increasing 76% YOY naturally due to the loss of Google services meaning Huawei users have limited choice but to do so. Petal search, the new search engine from Huawei, now has over 100m users with 81,000 apps integrated. Relevant apps are on the platform meaning that whatever the USA government tried to do to dampen Huawei has backfired and served to make the brand stronger in the market. 

The investment extends into retail, where others fear to tread, Huawei are leading the charge and opening eight flagship stores across major cities such as London, Paris, Milan which will be complemented by 42 experience zones that offer a user experience unrivalled so they claim. This initiative is close to my heart as the need to engage consumers in the considered purchase space is so important to achieve meaningful sales, market share and create advocates of your brand if not for life, certainly for the next five years.

Another Chinese brand making significant noise is Haier, which also owns Hoover, Candy and GE Appliances wants to be 100% connected throughout its portfolio of products. Currently they have 18 families of products that they are developing through app and voice connectivity, “democratic connectivity” according to the CEO Zhang Ruimin. With a three brand strategy of Candy delivering Value, Hoover as the core and Haier as premium. Candy, positioned in the market by its parent company as ‘affordable, smart, Italian’ claims to have 1.2 million paired products and 30% active users which in 2019 it recorded that 21% of Candy users were launching a washing cycle using its smart home facility, a multiple of 3 YOY and still growing.

Nova by Candy is a fully connected washing machine powered by your smartphone. The first of its type with one single button to control the MDA but also learning about your usage and making recommendations to enable consumers to wash smarter and ecologically.

Impressively it is claimed by Hoover that they sell globally a stick vacuum every minute. The new range will also be connected. H-Wash will scan your label via your smartphone and your connected Hoover H-Wash 500 will select the best program for your laundry. Now that means anyone can do the laundry.

H-Habitat air purifier, connected of course, will assess the quality of air in your home, the weather forecast, pollution stats, pollen count and adapt your purifier to react according to the need within your home. Gathering internal and external air data through the H-Scanner, which activates the robotic vacuum to clear dust and the air purifier to adapt the air quality in your home.

Positioning Haier as a premium brand and claimed to be the fastest growing premium brand (in this category) through creating innovations such as antibacterial laundry and five door cooling each with adjustable temperature zones. Did you know that Haier makes wine storage solutions? They are linking with the Vivino app to help you with how you should store any bottle of wine. By scanning the label, the app will automatically update the temperature of the storage to suit your choice of wine.

The trend at IFA 2020, it would seem, is that every brand is seeking to be the first choice for consumers to integrate with your smart home. It’s fair to say that the big news came predominantly from the MDA sector amongst others.

LG – “For us, this is a milestone of foundational significance because with this level of digital integration, we’re really beginning to build an evolving, connected and open ecosystem of smart products and services that can deliver so much more than the sum of its parts – going above and beyond device-level thinking to unlock a whole new world of potential at the system-level.”

Dr. IP Park, President & CTO, LG Electronics (Watch the summary of his speech.)

BSH – “We at BSH want to be the first company in our industry to neutralize the direct carbon dioxide emissions of all our locations worldwide.”

Matthias Ginthum, CMO BSH Hausgeräte (Watch the summary of his speech.)

TCL – “Our mission is to make life intelligent with innovative technology to make our customers’ lives easier and smarter.”

Frederic Langin, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, TCL Europe (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Haier – “Haier will introduce new solutions based on an ecosystems built from the Internet of Things for turning the group vision of Smart Home and Smart Living into reality.”

Yannick Fierling, CEO Haier (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Schneider electric – “The need to start to make homes not only smart but also sustainable and the urgency of the same has increased with the current crisis. (…) We are now linking the electric world and the digital world. This is Wiser.”

Manish Pant, CEO & Executive Vice President Home & Distribution Division Schneider electric (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Beurer – “Experience the power of the sea at home with maremed®. The patented technology creates a natural-identical seaside climate.”

Georg Walkenbach, Managing Director, Beurer GmbH (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Miele – “The Miele Group has coped quite well with this challenging year so far. In fact, at the midpoint of the year our sales were actually almost 2 per cent higher than those in the first half of 2019.”

Dr Reinhard Zinkann, Executive Director and Co-Proprietor of the Miele Group (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Hyundai – “You know we are making strategic investments in smaller fast-moving companies that will help Hyundai become more of a tech company rather than just a car company.” Michael Cole, President and CEO Hyundai Motor Europe 

HONOR – “Today, I am pleased to announce that we are bringing our all scenario smart life strategy to the next level. We will upgrade your productivity, creativity, connectivity and entertainment experiences, expand your smart life” and “From outdoor watches to all-rounder PCs, we are empowering young people to reinvent their smart life and expand the way they approach fitness, creativity, productivity and everyday entertainment”

George Zhao, President of HONOR Global (Watch the summary of his speech)

Now, with a handful of brand booths and three days of press conferences also IFA Business, Retail & Meeting Lounges, the highlight was the cross-industry innovations at SHIFT Mobility meets IFA NEXT. Here many ranging from start-up and established brands were showcasing new emerging technologies and there were in my humble opinion three worthy of note:

Heatle

When we boil water to make that cup of tea we boil more than we need. This device will boil whatever the amount, whatever the liquid. It is the easiest, fastest and most sustainable alternative to traditional ways of heating liquids benefiting our environment and does so free from limescale. It claims to save up to 60% energy per cup but you can’t have one just yet, as there’s a waitlist to own one.

Meater 

A wireless Bluetooth enabled meat thermometer that helps you never overcook that special cut of meat and cook it to perfection. It’s the first wireless smart meat thermometer that will estimate how long to cook your food to get perfect results which can be used on all types of cooking equipment to gage a temperature. As you would expect its wireless using a Bluetooth connection and app to permanently measure the internal and external temperature of the food. The app provides real time information on the cooking status of the meal, including resting time. Available in 3 versions: The Original MEATER and MEATER+ has a 50 metres Bluetooth range, ideal for the BBQ and for the Masterchefs amongst you. The MEATER block with 4 temperature probes boasts unlimited range and integrated OLED-display

Visseiro 

It is a ‘Smart Care Cushion’, which it claims allows reliable, continuous and contactless measurements of vital signs. The simple pillow effortlessly tracks elderly’s health and stores data in an app that can be checked regularly and sent to your doctor, if needed. Currently still in development but you could become a test user to aid its development.

It is these products that make IFA the destination event to experience innovation from established and start up brands. However this year, IFA as we know was sadly missed and whilst the event was skilfully orchestrated, I’m sure all will welcome the mass of brands in every category coming together as normal to enthralling and engaging media and consumers again next year at IFA2021 3rd – 7th September. Save the date.

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Smart Watches, Smart Choice

Daniel Todaro, Gekko’s managing director discusses the growing trend in smart watches, as we all look to monitor our health more closely and the wider acceptance these devices are gaining in the wake of COVID-19

Lockdown turned the attention of many to fitness and general wellbeing to make the most of the limited options available to exercise our bodies and minds. Therefore, what easier way to monitor this than through a Smartwatch, to give us that additional incentive or red flag to get up and be active within the constraints we all encountered. As a result, the market experienced a 20% surge in sales for Smartwatches during the H1 period that included lockdowns across much of the globe. The Wearables market is forecasted to grow in 2020 by 27%, with average selling prices dropping 4.5% but increasing to be a market worth over £18 billion.

It is fair to say that the popularity of smartwatches has been driven by advances in miniaturisation, through smaller and smarter sensors enabling ergonomic product design in devices. In fact, research and advisors, Gartner, are predicting that 10% of all wearables may be discreet and nearly invisible in the near future.

Beyond the hardware, is the trend in development of apps and services to complement wearables. Apple’s recent announcement of Fitness+, Amazon’s new Halo, and Fitbit’s Fitbit Premium, connect users with health and fitness content giving consumers guided workouts, coaching and diet advice, while incorporating data from their wearable device. For many this creates greater advocacy towards a brand’s ecosystem, making the software equal to the hardware when consumers make a choice on which wearable is right for them.

You will not have missed that Apple launched the 6th incarnation of its watch, which over its product lifecycle has contributed considerably to the smartwatch market. Indeed, Apple holds the largest share of a category that shipped a staggering 92.4 million units in 2019. Fast-forward to Q1 2020 and the increased popularity in the Apple Watch saw 4.5 million units shipped, holding a 26.8% share of the market. Whilst not to undermine this impressive lion share of the market that Apple holds, it’s important to note that there are other equally as good, if not better, wearable brands and devices available on the market. In total, all brands contributed to global sales across the category and in some instances shipping more than Apple when you include all Fitness wearables from Trackers, Body Sensors and Smart Wristbands.

The other significant market leaders in the smartwatch category are Fitbit, who shipped 2.5 million units in the q2 2020, as well as Samsung who held a 10.8% share in the first quarter of 2020. Other more sports focused brands, such as Garmin, extend the Smart watch category towards the pro athlete types that would never consider any mainstream or ‘lifestyle’ brand. Also, let’s not forget the many ‘challenger’ brands that are impacting on the market and chipping away at the category leaders share. These include the Chinese company Xiaomi, whose Mi Band fitness tracker has been witnessing great success creating a market share of 20.4% in Q2 2020. Put all these brands together and the category is forecasted to grow having already successfully shipped across all brands 33.7 million devices in Q2 2020.

The value of this market has developed 34% year-on-year as more consumers adopt smart devices for health and leisure reasons.

The integration of smartwatches into our lifestyles has become ‘normal’ to many across all generations who now couldn’t live without these devices. This growth in popularity and acceptance across all demographics and wider markets will see the category grow further and ship a forecasted 156 million units in 2021, an increase of 14.4%.

This increase will certainly see the smartwatch landscape potentially change with shifts in operating systems as Google’s planned acquisition of Fitbit enables it to bolster its health and fitness offerings. As you can imagine, an aggressive acquisition strategy is likely to be on the cards adding more OEM manufacturers to its list of Google Wear OS providers. The competition will undoubtedly get fierce with Samsung’s Tizen also looking to gain share with its own fitness-focused Galaxy watches. Therefore, the need to innovate and compete against challenger brands becomes even greater and adoption will be greater if the integration and compatibility of your smartwatch fits in seamlessly with your other devices.

Fitbit, who you could argue created the category, has recently launched the Sense product that responds to the growing desire from consumers to better understand their lifestyle and increase wellbeing. Features include Stress Management, Compatible ECG App, Skin Temperature Sensor and Sleep Tools for Better ZZZs. All bundled up in a competitively priced and design-led product that is compatible with all iOS and Android devices and can be customised to mix and match with colours and accessories to broaden, not only compatibility, but also its appeal.

Pre-empting this battle is perhaps the reason why Apple has launched the lower priced Watch SE that sits between its premium and entry-level legacy devices. This will enable the brand to benefit from the growth, to be stimulated through an aggressive land grab dominated by Google, Fitbit, Samsung and challenger brands such as Xiami and Huawei. It is widely recognised that the market for basic smartwatches and bands will benefit from the youth market whom these challenger brands offer a cost effective entry into the category and perhaps also those late adopters to the category.

With the gifting season upon us, against the backdrop of Covid-19 and people not being able or perhaps opting not to go to gyms, the options for smart health to increase its reach are obvious. Extending this to the older generation who perhaps value the peace of mind of understanding vital statistics without the need to book appointments and venture into surgeries may increase forecasted growth.

What we do know, it is the established users who remain an important sector, as they demand that their smartwatch does more and we are less coy about wearing these daily in place of a traditional timepiece. In fact, according to market research from Kantar, British consumers are not shy in admitting they use a fitness tracker, with 15% happy to claim publically to owning a smartwatch. Adopting them as a lifestyle choice to be used more widely across families and friends, thus increasing acceptance and contributing to the wearables success story.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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