Businesses that have a passion for training and staff development will excel during challenging times – how can independent retailers make the most of the opportunities available?

With the average turnover of staff or attrition rate, at 63% in retail compared to the national average of 15% across all employers, isn’t it time that retailers take stock of this a little bit more? Considering how much it is estimated to cost retailers – a recent report cited that globally retailers lose $19 billion each year on new staff costs –  it’s a false economy not to treat your staff as a highly valuable asset. Instead, much of what is spent on recruitment could be channelled into refreshing stores and training staff to enable them to be effective in their roles and provide an exceptional customer journey for shoppers.

The focus should be on retention rather than recruitment and with over 32% of retail staff stating that they receive no formal training at all, it’s a critical part of the puzzle that creates the whole picture for your customer experience.

Brands know this and that’s why they invest millions each year to train third party retail partners. New starter or induction training isn’t where staff training should begin and end. An ongoing plan for individual staff members is essential, with regular reviews and new initiatives implemented. Also consider all the brands that come in and train your staff week in, week out and then compare that to the training you deliver to your staff. How does your internal training stack up in comparison and ask whether your own training benefits your employees and enables them to be the best that they can be and are motivated whilst doing it?

It’s recorded that one in three staff leave their jobs due to a lack of training that allows them to learn new skills and develop their skill set. This shouldn’t be the case, as shoppers expect to be engaged by sales staff who know how to handle the sale of a considered purchase. The sales associate has to understand the importance of the sales process and how to navigate this to meet the customer’s needs and enhance their experience. Without training, who’s to blame when the sale doesn’t get closed or the customer walks out and later orders online? Often I think it’s the retailer for failing to develop the associate’s skill set to identify the need, create a journey that responds to the need and close the sale through an enhanced customer experience which builds on your customer service proposition.

Now more than ever, enhancing the customer experience is critical to create theatre in order to take the consumer through the varied steps of the journey from demo to sale. To do this, the responsibility as the employer is to equip your staff to be the best they can be – and this all starts with training. A key element of success in store, especially for considered purchases,  is the engagement of shoppers with any retail sales advisor [RSA]. Therefore as the employer, are your RSA’s proactive, helpful, skilful, knowledgeable, and capable of providing a personalised experience? This is something the online experience can’t replicate and physical retailers should be capitalising upon and drawing people in-store with the promise of a worthwhile face to face engagement.

The difference is down to individuals, their training and management, all of which are critical when it comes to talking about a brand and its products. It is vital that RSA’s are informed and motivated to deliver an exemplary customer experience through being not only advocates of the brands ranged but also of the store itself.

So what can be implemented at very little expense, apart from time, in order to give staff the opportunity to grow with a view to be successful in their roles and motivated to remain as an employee of your store. Here are five suggestions that you can influence:

  1. Ask your suppliers for training support or choose to work with brands that offer recognised training e.g. those who’ve been shortlisted for an ERT training award. Look around your store and identify every brand or category that your staff can’t sell effectively. These are the brands you can lean on for training support.
  2. Seek out and invest in training specialists to support your business and develop your staff to be effective in their roles. But first, you need to understand what things are like from the shoppers’ point of view. What is their experience like when they come into your stores and engage with your sales people? Consider commissioning a mystery shopper survey to provide an independent assessment that can be benchmarked against other retailers and indeed your competitors. This will provide you with insight on what behaviours need to be changed and skills improved so that the training can be tailored accordingly.
  3. Membership of organisations such as BIRA (British Independent Retailers Association) can offer specialist retail training and bespoke learning – https://bira.co.uk/benefits/retail-training as can seeking out support from your buying groups or trade bodies such as CIH, Retra, Sirius or Cedia to name but a few.
  4. Check with your local authorities to see if they offer free specialist training and support to you as an independent retailer in the community. An example – https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/licensing-business/independent-retailers-support-programme-2021-2022/
  5. Build and develop a Sales Advisor training program for your store(s) that recognises personal development and rewards individuals for their efforts. This does not necessarily need to be monetary, it could be in the form of certificates and or treats.

To read the full article by Dan Todaro, Managing Director please visit ERT Online

5 Retail Trends Impacting Customer Behaviour

We live in extraordinary times. While conventional wisdom pointed to a significant economic recovery after the challenges of the pandemic, a different picture has emerged as we look to the Autumn. The cost of living crisis is impacting everyone and has dramatically impacted the willingness of consumers to engage in discretionary spending.

Recent events have proved that markets can shift in an instant, and reacting to these effectively can be the difference between keeping or losing customer loyalty. It means working harder than ever to understand the trends that are impacting behavior. But after the horrors of lockdown, retailers with the right smart strategies can emerge from this bumpy road back to a more normal trading environment.

It is key to utilise opportunities across store and ecommerce to ensure your offering is ahead of the game as we look forward to the golden quarter. So what are we seeing that is worth consideration? I think there are five key trends impacting behaviour in the second half of the year.

1. The Inflation Era Shows No Sign Of Abating

We are living in an era with the highest level of inflation since the 1970s. This has been driven by pent-up consumer demand after the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the most recent BRC-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index data, shop prices hit their highest point of inflation since 2008 as the balancing act between supply chain costs and a cost conscious consumer continues. For July, Shop price inflation soared by 4.4%, up from 3.1% in June,

Consumer concerns regarding the cost of living cannot go ignored by retailers and brands. Intelligent pricing strategies are a  key priority, as well as ensuring your customer journey is quality enough to capture a consumer willing to shop around.

2. Customers Being More Canny With Considered Purchases

In this inflationary world consumers are needing to think very hard about big ticket items. Particularly when looking ahead to further energy price rises in the Autumn. This is having a noticeable impact on existing sales. There was a 4% MoM decline in global smartphone shipments according to the latest Counterpoint research market review. This represents the second consecutive month of MoM decline, along with being the 11th consecutive result showing YoY sales decline.

Despite many ongoing success stories, the overall market has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. While component shortages have been partially sorted; inflation, a slowdown in China, and the war in Ukraine have all affected recent demand.

With smartphone upgrades being a discretionary purchase it is incumbent that retailers focus on the value of any big ticket items. For appliance manufacturers emphasising the ability to help save energy and costs can be key. With running costs becoming of more interest, consumers will be looking at eco-credentials for new appliances, as well as potentially opting for better quality units that will stand the test of time.                                                     

3. Personalisation and Experience Key to Driving Return Visits

There is also an expectation of quality customer service and personalisation. Something that will please consumers and drive up the chances of a return visit, whether that is online or physical store. Research commissioned by Gekko last year found that the top factors driving sales were experience related. This includes the ‘ability to see and touch a product’, and expert, tailored advice.

Empowering the consumer through increased personalisation is vital, particularly as 80% say they would only shop with a business that embraces it. It is the ability to differentiate in today’s environment that will mark out success from failure.

People now have an elevated expectation of their shopping experience, looking for curated, one-to-one engagements at various stages of their journey. Such interactions breed brand loyalty and recognition, meaning you can count on people coming back for more if they enjoy their time with you. Recent research by MoEngage found that only 25% of retailers currently personalise their communications with their customers, so there is a real opportunity to get ahead of the curve.

4. Embracing Omnichannel and New Tech

2022 has seen a return to steady growth for ecommerce in conjunction with the full return of bricks and mortar footfall. With both channels set to grow sales this year after the end of lockdowns, it becomes more important than ever to ensure your omnichannel presence is informative and engaging.

The proportion of retail sales online was 26.6% in May 2022 and remains substantially higher than the 19.7% in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic. Research we commissioned last year also showed 80% of consumers would now research online before buying an item instore. It is crucial to ensure you have a seamless and joined up journey across your various touchpoints.

5. Sustainability and Ethics

This continues to be a top consideration for consumers when it comes to choosing both how they shop and who with.

According to Deloitte’s latest Sustainable Consumer research, environmental awareness amongst UK consumers has rocketed in the past year with 85% now making more sustainable lifestyle choices. The findings revealed a strong desire to adopt more circular practices, such as buying products in sustainable packaging.

Credentials need to be backed up and also authentic, an increasingly savvy market will disengage otherwise.

So the road ahead may be bumpy but with the right map retailers and brands can navigate through the difficulties. Understanding the consumers’ specific needs is key to ensure retailers can be back in the driving seat for the second half of the year.

To read the full article by Rupert Cook – Marketing Director Gekko Group, please visit Talk Retail

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

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How physical stores can ensure they are refit for the future

The events of the past couple of years have accelerated the pace of change in the retail industry. Retailers have simultaneously had to react quickly to events out of their control, while also embracing the ongoing trends that were clear even before the pandemic hit.

The role of the physical store has been one of the biggest topics in the spotlight. The absence of stores during lockdowns created two slightly paradoxical trends. Firstly their importance was maintained and even strengthened in certain ways. 

With the growth of ecommerce during the lockdown era, some feared that the writing was on the wall for traditional bricks and mortar retail. These concerns, however, were short lived as shops re-opened their doors and visitors flocked back. 

Yet at the same time, the need for change in the industry was also apparent. Ecommerce was embraced by everyone, even the most hardened luddites, meaning physical retail needed to redefine its purpose. 

According to ONS figures, online share of retail has consistently fallen since its peak back in February 2021. Still far higher than the pre-pandemic level of 19.9%, but with the balance restored somewhat by the opening of the high street. So the demand remains strong yet evolution is required to keep up with the pace of this new retail world environment.

The return to prominence has been so strong that the idea of growing a bricks and mortar presence has become a priority for both existing and new entrants to the market. Many previously online only retailers are developing ambitious plans to expand their portfolios. Amazon itself is reportedly planning on rolling out 260 Amazon Fresh stores across the UK over the next few years in a challenge to the existing grocery hegemony and an effort to make a physical imprint in the market.

So with more stores on the agenda for many, and occupancy rates back on the up as footfall gradually rises once more, how do they need to adapt to succeed in this current retail landscape?

Play to their strengths

Consumers have grown more used to utilising both online and offline channels when shopping. Our own research found that 85% of people now research online before heading to a store to purchase. As a result, they are looking for a shopping journey combining the ease of online browsing, with the added ability of being able to try things for themselves and ask for real advice when needed.

Retailers need to ensure they have the most in demand products on display, with all the relevant information at hand, so customers can enjoy getting to know their potential product with ease. Better yet, have knowledgeable brand advisors on hand to answer any questions and demonstrate useful features.

This part of the store experience should be built upon by retailers and the brands they stock as part of wider omnichannel improvements. Invest in improving these elements for the customer in order to create a positive shopping journey, playing to the true strengths of the store. This includes ensuring they truly understand what makes your retail space both an efficient and enjoyable place to be. 

Incorporate your online channels

Store expansion does not mean you can forget about the online channel, in fact customers are now expecting their interactions between the two to be seamless.

Consumers should be able to look on your website or app and see product availability in the store they are heading to. Offering an immediate connection to the store keeps the customer on side and more likely to remain loyal in their hunt for an item.

Physical retail can also now play a huge role in online order fulfilment by being a base for deliveries and click and collect orders. Complement this with accessible pick up points so that online customers are satisfied with their entire omnichannel shop, while also helpfully adding to your footfall figures.

Embrace technology

We have already touched on how technology might help create a better shopping experience, but there remain many opportunities to embrace it in physical retail.

For example, utilise your app to connect users to their store experiences through better personalisation, stock locations, or further product information.

One brand who are great advocates of this approach is H&M, which has started to roll out tech-enhanced shopping experiences in its COS stores. With seamless payments, personalised recommendations, and even a smart mirror that allows customers to request further items without leaving the changing room.

Offering these convenient elements will help the customer feel empowered, valued, and much more likely to make a repeat visit, while also giving you insightful data. Be forthcoming with the information that matters to them, otherwise shoppers will disengage and look elsewhere for it.

Think differently

Stores have the ability to excite and energise in real life better than any other channel, which is why we are seeing collaborations, new events, and online retailers joining in the physical experience.

Online star Bloom and Wild has been opening up a series of pop-up shops around the UK, utilising a bricks and mortar presence to give customers a real view of the plants on offer, with experts on hand to guide and advise. In terms of real engagement, the value of physically promoting your brand in a busy retail area cannot be underestimated.

The idea of the store ‘as an experience’ has grown to such an extent that it expands beyond just individual stores and into entire areas. The new Battersea power station shopping district will be just one example of the new type of retail district. A hybrid of Apple offices, event spaces, shops and hospitality. The combination of which looks to be the key to a bright outlook on high streets and shopping centres. 

The physical store has an exciting future and the possibilities are near endless for those that embrace change. Creating a multidimensional space that compliments rising ecommerce, along with shining in its own right, will create a space customers will yearn to return to. 

To read the full article by Tom Hardwood, Data and Insight manager please visit Branding Magazine

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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Building Brand Loyalty in the Modern Age – A New Route to Success

The concept of building brand loyalty used to be relatively straightforward. Effective marketing and delivery of a positive customer experience would create a positive association for a brand. The lifetime value of that relationship could then be hugely profitable, with consumers unlikely to switch.

However, we now live in a world of choice and information overload. An increasingly digital landscape, dominated by tech giants who hold many of the cards. In this new world, run by algorithms and AI, traditional long-held attachments are being unwound. As we culturally shift in shopping habits, people are more likely to remember what they bought from Instagram or Amazon but not the actual name of the brand. Does this mean brand loyalty is dead or at the very least waning?

Brand communication – from top-down to influencer-led

In the old world, brand marketers would use above-the-line platforms to create a strong identity and desire for a product. The brand direction was determined in a very top-down fashion, often based on the instinct of the CMO. A ‘needs’ state was identified and answered and an advertising campaign was launched highlighting the brand’s unique qualities.

In today’s world, we have shifted to digital and younger generations will see campaigns on Tik Tok and Instagram where the product is being advocated by a brand ambassador or a paid-for ad placed on social. In this new era, the control of the brand’s identity has been repackaged, personalized, and filtered through the lens of influencers. Having never heard of the brand, the influencer’s recommendation can be enough to create a consumer of a brand.

In fact, large segments of audiences will have never even seen an advert on TV or in a newspaper because they don’t touch a newspaper or they don’t switch on a TV. Or the brand has not included it as part of its media planning. According to recent research by Nielson, only 10% of Gen Z rank watching TV as their most popular entertainment activity. In fact, across the 18-34 bracket, live TV viewership dropped by 23% year on year.

The changing nature of brand loyalty

So, this digitally dominant world has created an entirely different mindset when it comes to brand loyalty. For socially digital natives, brand loyalty is about what it offers to them in value. A brand like Paul Smith will have a huge amount of brand equity among Gen X or baby boomers for its quality, tailoring, or painstakingly built partnerships and marketing campaigns. However, this will mean nothing for younger generations living in the moment and wanting to know what a brand can deliver here and now.

For younger consumers, if it is a relevant brand, it will be popular for them. If it’s not, they are just not interested. Quality has given way to relevance or price consciousness. Indeed there has been a huge rise in interest among younger audiences in mobile phone brands that offer a lot of the same features as iPhones but for a fraction of the price, like Xiaomi built with an Android skin. The tease here is the freedom an Android device offers a user who doesn’t want to be part of or associated with ‘that crowd’.

For digital natives, there is a checklist of what is really important for them when they spend their money. In recent research, price promotion was rated as crucial for this audience, but ethics are also vital. How long is a product going to last and what are they going to use it for? Does it meet my needs and values?

The life cycle of brands

In this new age, the life cycle of brands is also shorter, almost sonic. Brands can spring up quickly to consciousness but equally, their success can be shorter-lived. This has been evidenced by the spate of high-street retail brands that have disappeared.

Glossier is a D2C brand that sprung up in relatively short order. They have quickly scaled up the ladder of investment based on perceived digital growth that would continue endlessly. The direct-to-consumer beauty brand has raised an astonishing $80 million in Series E funding and reversed the traditional model.

They have latterly embraced physical retail with a pop-up store in Covent Garden, London,  and the swift ascent to being a much-loved brand is highlighted by the queues of people outside. However, they recently had to lay off staff as the growth they have experienced has not been maintained. Could the bubble burst as quickly as it was created?

How do brands build loyalty today?

It is certainly difficult for brands to build loyalty in the modern world because they are having to think about a very different culturally younger generation and manage a more traditionally minded older audience.

To square up this circle, value and values are two unifying themes that can be focused on, although realized in different ways. As consumers, we are all more interested in the purpose of brands and this is a clear differentiator. Brands today, particularly consumer goods products, have to think not only about how they make a product but also how they produce it. According to a study by Cone/Porter Novelli, 77% of consumers say they have stronger emotional bonds to purpose-driven companies.

Also, what added value are brands able to offer beyond the immediate product or service? How are they innovating to remain relevant? An excellent example of this is the Google Pixel 6 device, which enables users to remove photobombers and unwanted objects so that they “disappear like magic” using a “magic eraser”. Also, Portraits on Pixel represent the nuances of different skin tones for all people beautifully and authentically, to take true, accurate portraits. It’s innovations like these that create an immediate way for brands to build loyalty in the modern era.

Canny partnerships unite different audiences

Additionally, partnerships can be a great way of uniting seemingly disparate groups around common themes. CK1 Palace was a great example of this. A new collaboration between Calvin Klein and Palace Skateboards was launched with a tongue-in-cheek film celebrating cities that came to define these two labels. For streetwear brand Palace, it was London and its lively skate scene, with grainy film textures creating some retro-cool. 

Also included are high-contrast, black-and-white style studio shots, synonymous with Calvin Klein. The combination of nostalgia and modern relevance was a canny move that other brands would do well to replicate. Calvin Klein has opened new stores and you will see members of Gen Z proudly walking around Carnaby Street in London with a Calvin Klein shopping bag. This shows an effective strategy by a heritage brand to remain relevant and build loyalty with different audiences.

Towards a new approach

Creating brand loyalty today is far more difficult in a digital, social media-dominated world of increasing fickleness. Heritage brands are in trouble with a younger generation who has no interest in timeless qualities built up over many years. But brands can succeed if they adopt a new playbook. This needs to focus on the values and value of their product and on leveraging partnerships to remain relevant.

According to author Maurice Franks, “Loyalty cannot be blueprinted. It cannot be produced on an assembly line. In fact, it cannot be manufactured at all, for its origin is the human heart.”

To read the full article by Daniel Todaro – Managing Director Gekko Group, please visit Branding Magazine

Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

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How Can Retail Navigate The Cost Of Living Crisis?

There is no escaping the fact that we are in the midst of the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, with rising inflation and energy prices putting the squeeze on household finances by around £1,000 this year alone.

Inflation is set to rise even further, February’s figure has already reached 6.2%, marking its highest point in thirty years. In Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring statement he announced measures to try and alleviate the situation for households, but the charge was they won’t be nearly enough to alleviate such a unique situation.

While demand for products remains high and footfall continues to increase towards pre-pandemic levels, inflation, energy bills, and rising taxes have already begun taking their toll on consumer confidence. As of this month the GfK Consumer Confidence Index is down to -31, its lowest point since late 2020. Tellingly, the most significant drops come from the outlooks for personal finances and the wider economic situation, alongside the major purchase index, indicating that consumers are already concerned about how much they have to spend.

This perfect storm of cost increases, ongoing supply chain issues and Brexit red-tape, is also continuing to impact retail. In such a position, it is inevitable that these costs are eventually passed onto the consumer through higher prices. Lush has become another high street business that has had to up their prices by an average of 8.5%, joining the likes of Tesco and many others who have recently declared similar moves. Such retailers have also warned that further increases cannot be ruled out given the uncertainty.

Therefore the situation we now face is a consumer that is tightening their wallets amid the largest income collapse since the 1970s. Combined with retailers that are under pressure to remain competitive among some of the most difficult trading conditions in recent years.

Customer loyalty is going to be hard to retain if customers are more willing to shop around to grab the best deals for products, so a number of approaches need to be considered in order to ensure you are the most attractive proposition amongst the competition.

How can retail navigate its way to success in these tricky times?

Smart Pricing

It is clear that pricing is going to be a key factor this year, both in terms of the purchasing consumer and the margin conscious business. Indeed, effective margin management has emerged as a key growth driver for 2022, and getting this right will provide a significant boost. With 34% of UK business still pricing on an ad-hoc manual basis, introducing real time, automated pricing models will be a real differentiator in these uncertain times.

While staying competitive on pricing is important, it is not always necessary to simply be the cheapest for a given product, and retailers should be careful to not get themselves into a black hole of low-margin continuous discounting. Kantar research has shown that as much as 34% of brands are in a vulnerable position where their brand equity index is not supported by their pricing models.

Customer Service

It is important to remember that it is not just price that determines value. Research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Gekko Group found that 37% of Consumer Electronics (CE) consumers would be willing to spend more on those products if they receive quality service, emphasising the real importance of getting this right at all points.

In-store and online advisors can extol the virtues of relevant products and their benefits. While true of nearly all product categories, it is particularly relevant to consumer electronics and other considered purchases, where shoppers will likely have more questions or want to see a demonstration.

Continuing with electronics for example, the value of efficient and smart devices can be highlighted by knowledgeable staff who are able to answer any queries from interested customers. The long-term money saving virtues of a smart thermostat for example, are easily explained in person, allowing such a product to shine when it might otherwise fly under the radar of a price conscious shopper. Fixtures and displays should also be updated to provide real value when a representative is not feasible.

Reward Loyalty

With consumers more willing to shop around than ever, it is important to explore all avenues in trying to keep them most engaged with your offering. This has led to a mini-revolution when it comes to existing loyalty schemes, particularly those of the major supermarkets.

Google search trends for ‘loyalty cards’ and ‘best savings’ have increased thanks to the rise in the cost of living, and consumers are looking for new types of schemes to entice them. Around 96% of shoppers say that they would like schemes to do more, and this goes beyond the small freebies or spend for points style many of us are used to.

Shoppers now look for personalised pricing, community outreach, and even gaming elements as a way to keep them interested. Tesco’s Clubcard prices are now a huge feature of their in-store displays, creating the desire to be involved and not miss out on potential savings. Personalisation has been a big point for Sainsbury’s, who is able to leverage its data to hand out relevant offers to customers, making them feel personally valued.

In combination with effective pricing and good customer service, the reward element is yet another way that retailers can present value against their competitors in this market.

The winners in retail this year will be stipulated by a few factors. Discounters will naturally have a headstart in attracting customers in the immediate term, but as we have explored, value is not just defined by price alone. Shoppers are also looking for quality and efficiency, with a view to being price conscious and also more environmentally friendly. These factors need to be clearly communicated across channels and all elements of the customer journey should be audited to ensure that this is the case.

Find your strengths in the current climate and promote them through all means available, while staying true to your brand will resonate with the customer whichever end of the pricing spectrum you are on. Doing this, alongside ensuring your customer experience is efficient and enjoyable, will keep consumers loyal even in these testing times.

To read the full article by Tom Harwood – Data and Insight Manager Gekko Group, please visit Talk Retail

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

How to create the ‘Feel Good’ retail we all need right now

While the economy has fully opened up after the end of pandemic restrictions, we are faced with fresh challenges. Soaring inflation, ongoing supply chain disruption and the implications of a war in Europe loom large. Against this worrying backdrop many are looking for positive experiences to help us feel good and distract us from the news.

Indeed, the whole concept of well-being and self care is far more prevalent amongst consumers now given the torrid time we have all faced. It is no doubt with this in mind that Selfridge’s recently grabbed headlines by announcing it would offer customers a series of experiences including sex counselling and therapeutic sessions. 

Its ‘Super Self’ initiative is aimed at putting “inner well-being” at the heart of the shopping experience and intended to tempt shoppers back into its store. The immersive experience includes bookable confidence coaching and empowerment sessions, as well as inviting DJs to create “feel-good sounds”.

It’s a well thought through initiative, enabling Selfridges to set the agenda in creative retailing. Positioning itself at the forefront of a retail revival, this service is one of a number to get shoppers ‘back in the habit’ of visiting stores. 

After two years of restrictions, city centres have struggled with the upheaval of lockdowns, stay at home workers, minimal tourism and staffing issues. However the figures for January showed Gross domestic product (GDP) bouncing back in January 2022, increasing by 0.8%. The Wholesale and retail trade grew by 2.5% in January 2022 and was the main contributor to January’s growth in services.

Need to recognise changed behaviours

The lockdowns and restrictions have been long and painful, but a survey we recently commissioned on consumer shopping intentions indicated a strong appetite to return and shop in-store. Only 2% said they wouldn’t be returning to the High Street. But it would be naive to just act as though it was still 2020 in returning to the same plan. 

It is incumbent on retailers to recognise how consumers have changed their shopping behaviours. Successful retailers have always understood the motivators and triggers for different customer groups and then offered an appropriate, tailored approach. This needs to be recognised and acted upon. It is certainly something Selfridge’s have recognised. We are changed and therefore retail needs to change to remain relevant in this new and uncertain world.

Connect with shoppers on a more personal, emotional level

Physical retailers need to emphasise the instore user experience to provide that differentiating factor from the online realm. A good customer experience means your customers will spend more and is something that is a key brand differentiator. The positive approach embraced by Selfridges is an opportunity to connect with shoppers on a more personal, emotional level. 

Positivity provides a welcome break and will help with loyalty and sales. Positivity is an important part of the customer experience mix but it’s more than just that. It’s about appealing to the senses. A sensory buzz of a considered purchase and the need to reconnect with the consumer in this category/space that just can’t be provided online. 

In our survey the top factor in people making a considered purchase was the ability to see and touch a product, according to 58% of respondents. This tactile ability to interact with a product and try before they buy gives people a reason to head into town. 

Stimulate the senses

Retailers should be stimulating the senses and having the right experts instore. 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. People who truly understand the product, can answer questions and can close a sale. This is something the online world again can not replicate.

To complement the expert, think about presenting those products in an appealing way. You will want to focus on products that have increased in popularity during the pandemic – those supporting lives now more centred at home. Make them visually appealing with great displays and demos. Ensure you have clearly labelled product details, features and benefits and ensure any promotions are clearly highlighted, ie. what it integrates or works well with.

Brand ambassadors are game-changers

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. In an environment where inflation is likely to start to bite, people will be more conscious of what they are spending money on and therefore raises the importance of the skill of an expert in helping to guide a sale. 

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. 

On a bumpy road to recovery and with challenging ongoing news, we all want to feel good. Brands that recognise our changed needs and create the right experience led by the right expert can succeed. 

To read the full article by Rupert Cook – Marketing Director Gekko Group, please visit  Retail Sector

Photo by Tim Douglas

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How Brands Create an Emotional Connection with Their Customers

The role of the brand in peoples’ lives has changed dramatically over the past few years. Consumers have spent two years decluttering, throwing away, updating, and changing what they need. As they’ve assessed the results, people’s attitudes towards certain brands have also changed. Brands that invented themselves decades ago are not necessarily communicating successfully or coming across in the same way anymore because people have changed and moved on. 

Consumers now want a less transactional and more emotional relationship with brands. According to a recent survey by Motista, customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have three times higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the company at a rate of 71%, instead of the average 45%. It is this personal approach to building relationships that brands should develop. Like with any personal relationship, it should be built on key psychological principles.

1. Good listening skills

One of the key elements in any two-way relationship is the ability to listen and understand someone’s concerns. We are in a global environment where inflation has become very real and persistent for people everywhere. Therefore, from a brand perspective, you are going to have to work a lot harder to persuade somebody to buy your product. 

As consumers, we have become more considerate in our choices of what we buy and where we want to spend our money. The first question consumers are now asking when considering any product is, do they really need that thing in their lives?

As a brand, are you confident you’re listening rather than just broadcasting your messages? How are you adapting your approach and enthralling your customer over the entire sales cycle? This approach is especially crucial in the considered purchase space. 

The answer is in addressing a customer’s underlying needs state and responding to what they’ve said. Not what you think they need. For example, it’s said that, on average, it takes 12 days for somebody to buy a washing machine. So that’s 12 days from first consideration to researching online to getting to the point of purchase. During that window, consumers have plenty of opportunities to change their mind, especially in crowded categories. Brands that don’t listen and fail to address the shopper’s needs during that journey will lose out.

2. Offering connection

In any friendship group, you will want to feel like you belong – to become part of a tribe. In many ways, a timeless virtue a brand can offer. But this has been given added importance in recent years. When a brand evokes a true sensation of inclusion, we feel a connection.

When we buy into a brand, they are offering us more than products and services, we are buying into a lifestyle. We become part of their tribe. This is a particularly strong trait for technology users. People define themselves by the gadgets and brands they favor – for example, whether they are an iOS user or an Android user. Apple achieved such success by the ability to move technology from the practical to an emotional, tactile, beautifully designed and built piece of hardware product that created the real ‘love’ of users.

In a time where we have perhaps felt more isolated the ability to bond with others over shared interests is crucial. This is something all generations have been yearning for and are looking to experience. 

3. Sharing the same values

We increasingly buy into brands because of their ethics or how they contribute back or give back to society. Also how they conduct themselves behind the scenes or the manner in which they go about developing their products. This is becoming more strong with Gen Z. According to a recent study by Attest, “more than 60% of Gen Z say they’re likely to stop buying from a brand that doesn’t meet their personal values – 42% say ‘likely’ and 20% say ‘very likely’.”

Brands should connect with the values of their audience to build a stronger bond, rather than just perhaps providing them with a product or service they need. People will want to buy into a product because they appreciate they are dealing with a responsible brand that gives something back.

4. Being financially empathetic

Ethics are, of course, important but let’s not be naive. A recent study we commissioned also showed ‘price promotion’ was one of the most important factors in making a considered purchase

Indeed, according to an article by Psychology Today, having compatible financial values is a key predictor of relationship success and is also one of the biggest reasons relationships break down. This also applies to brands. Brands should ensure they don’t lose their customer base because they have a tin ear to their customers’ financial concerns. 

For everyone contemplating buying into a brand, it needs to be at a price point that works for them. In other words, a reasonable price. No one wants to feel like they are being overcharged so that they suffer buyer’s remorse. It needs to be the right product at the right price that does what they need. 

5. Trustworthiness

People want to trust the brands they buy from. In order to be trustworthy, it is vital to be consistent. If brands are saying one thing on their social media feeds about supporting sustainability but then a quick Google search finds they are not following this through, there is likely to be a backlash and a push back. People have more ability to find a brand and hold it to account.  

I think we are moving away from people buying things because it is just a thing to buy. I do genuinely think that people buy products and into brands because there is a genuine need. And if there’s a choice in that category, they will make a considered choice. 

It is also not necessarily about being the most ethical brand on the planet, but about being consistent and honest. There is nothing worse than that disappointing out-of-box experience. When you open a box and you feel like you’ve bought a dud or it’s just not the thing that you had anticipated having due to a brand promise that isn’t then delivered upon.

6. Fun experience

As we look at the more worthy elements of building a sustainable relationship, let’s not forget about the fun. This is the reason so many retailers are moving into ‘feel good’ retail. It is why a brand like Selfridges is offering free therapy and sex counselling alongside DJs providing ‘feel good’ sounds. By creating a climate of enjoyment, people are likely to feel more positively about the brand.

The same applies to car brands Tesla and Genesis, which have created vast immersive experiences in Westfield. The huge cost of these activations is not going to convert that many people. We’re talking about a significant amount of square footage in a serious location within one of the UK’s busiest shopping malls. But it is 100% about the experience. 

In many ways, this isn’t a place you come to transact. This is a place where you come to be immersed in the wonders of Genesis. Whether it is the luxury, the technology, the innovation, and being immersed into the brand – it’s done very, very well. It engages all the senses and creates enjoyment. The fun factor and visual experience is something so many people have missed out on these past two years and brands that proactively bring that back to life can reap the benefits.

Creating an unbreakable emotional bond

In conclusion, brands need to think very hard about a new approach to creating a genuine emotional connection with consumers who have quite a changed perspective. This needs to be beyond solely transactional. Brands need to apply the same principles they would apply to fostering any relationship. This involves focusing on good listening skills, offering connection, showing they share the same values, being financially empathetic, trustworthy, and fun.

If they can get these elements right, they can create an unbreakable emotional bond. According to author Sue Johnson, “Love is a survival imperative we experience from the cradle to the grave. Loving connection is the only safety nature ever offers us.” Brands that want to survive these tumultuous times would do well to follow that advice.

To read the full article please visit Branding Magazine

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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I See You But I Don’t Hear You

At the time of writing, retail footfall is up 3% week on week to 80% of that in 2019 and while this is encouraging and further increases are anticipated, we must temper expectations for a full recovery simply because of changing consumer habits and their increasing propensity to head online. So the question is, what are you, as a retail business, doing to make yourself heard and adapting to the current market situation? 

In the world of Amazon, things have been going very well. Their latest figures show that its revenues grew by 20% last year in the UK, with sales leaping to £23.6 billion for 2021 from £19.6 billion in 2020, and far ahead of the £13 billion of sales taken in 2019.

While online share of sales has declined over time from its peak during lockdown, Amazon has continued to thrive regardless and it’s a clear indication that if your competitors trade online, they are seeing the value of an omnichannel approach to retail.

The core driver to any retailer’s success is making it clear, through effective marketing, as to what you sell, where you sell it and how you sell it. Doing this effectively will lend itself to drive your footfall and clicks to keep those customers and potential orders coming.

In the MDA and CE sectors, the appetite to ‘upgrade’ and ‘refresh’ remains and growth continues at a pace, so making your store the de facto supplier for the local community, if it isn’t already, is an easily achievable objective that doesn’t have to cost a fortune to realise through local marketing.

Indeed there are some fantastic examples of how ERT Award winners have used Social Media to great effect in their marketing mix. By using Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to run competitions, announce winners, promote new products or communicate promotional savings and be part of the community. Through this approach much can be achieved to target the local consumer. By putting a strategy in place and driving these communication channels as part of your marketing, social media can be a useful tool to create a community-centric voice that lends itself to serve the local community. It’s worth remembering that recent Barclaycard research has identified that nine in ten people who have shopped locally, say they will continue to do so. Don’t lose them.

With this in mind, think about the importance of Google in your marketing mix as it’s increasingly more valuable not only as a service you can utilise for free from Google but also how consumers search. Key findings have been that:

  • 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information.
  • 72% of consumers that did a local search visited a store within five miles of their local.
  • 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else.
  • 72% of computer or tablet users and 67% of smartphone users want ads that are customised to their city or postcode. (Source: Think with Google)

Springboard expects this year’s retail footfall will remain 10% below pre-Covid levels and this largely relates to pressures on household incomes through increased inflation and the general cost of living.

Retailers and brands need to bear in mind this fact, so while footfall will be impacted, the shopper returning to stores will be more discerning and as such their customer experience will need to be positive and rewarding to encourage them to spend. Using local marketing techniques to attract consumers into your store is critical in harnessing the potential of that 10% gap. So what can you do to help drive traffic to your store or website:

  1. Set up detailed radius location targeting in Google Ads
    1. This is key, as advertising to a broad audience will attract the wrong audience. Using demographics will be much more effective and efficient. It will also have a better return on investment.
  1. Run local Facebook Ads
    1. Most of the population are on Facebook, why not target on that social platform
  2.  Encourage reviews
    1. Shoppers increasingly use reviews as an essential part of their decision making and buying process. So, in addition to visiting your website to see what you have to offer,  potential customers will also use what other people say to get insight on the products you sell and the service you offer. After all, local shoppers are far more likely to be wanting a friendly personalised service from their local retailer. If your business shows up in a directory and there are no reviews, they are likely to turn to a competitor who has reviews. Optimise your local online marketing by asking customers to write good online reviews for these directories and make it easy for them to do so.
  3. Running a contest
    1. As shown by a few of these local businesses selected, competitions, especially for a local business, gets customers interested and involved. Customers like a locally run competition as there’s a higher chance to win as opposed to a big global business with millions of potential contestants etc.

Through targeted marking, it can assist to increase loyalty to your store and does not mean that price is always the deciding factor for loyalty, service and experience can negate the need to always be the lowest in price. Competing on price with competitors, as you are no doubt aware, is never sustainable in the long term as it chips away at your bottom line. With a loyal customer base, you can then concentrate on maintaining a quality service worthy of the price..

In fact, the Gartner Group found that 20% of your loyal customers generate 80% of your profits. Meanwhile, Marketing Metrics found that the chances of converting first-time customers is 5 to 20%, as compared to existing customers which is 60 to 70%. This is where effective local marketing to drive customer loyalty comes into play to increase your footfall, conversion rates and your average transaction value.

Loyal customers are more likely to check your campaigns as they already have experience with your business and are more likely to trust your product and services.

The secret to all marketing is getting the tone right and appealing to a diverse base of potential customers to visit your store, in addition to those who know or shop with you already. 

Use local marketing to talk about what makes you different, your approach, offers and more. Make sure your staff know what you are marketing to enable a seamless journey from what the customer sees and reads and translates into the experience they receive on your shop floor. Train your staff to mirror your local marketing in their approach with customers and set targets with staff to identify those who were attracted into the store through your advertising. Use this intelligence to know what is working effectively and maybe not so, to fine-tune and ensure your tone resonates with your customers.

With more consumers happy to shop locally, this trend will only continue if you offer the products and service that makes shopping local a pleasure and never a chore.

To read the full article please visit ERT

Photo by Rachel Hannah Photo on Unsplash

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Five Key Factors Set To Drive The Retail Sector This Year

With the annual January sales melee almost over what does the rest of 2022 hold in store for the retail sector?

It’s a sector that’s weathered the global pandemic, huge changes in consumer attitudes and a spike in technology, not the least of which is the buzzword of the moment – metaverse.

So we asked Tom Harwood, Data and Insight Manager at retail field marketing and customer experience experts, Gekko, for his take on what trends are likely to impact retail in 2022…

Tom Hardwood gekko
Tom Harwood, Insight Manager, Gekko

Having adapted to the hurdles they have faced so well over the past 18 months, it’s clear that this year retailers must keep innovating in this changing market to ensure their omni-channel and consumer experiences are exceptional, while also embracing the interests and topics on the mind of today’s shopper. 

Here are five key factors impacting retail that businesses should take note of to thrive in 2022.

Supply and demand

The well documented supply chain issues that have impacted retailers and other sectors across the country have been a tough hurdle to overcome and it is likely that into 2022 we will still be feeling the knock on effects in some quarters. 

It has, however, highlighted a positive for the industry in that it is clear there is consumer demand and the appetite to shop has returned with consumers in the market to purchase back to pre pandemic levels, and in many cases more than. 

Even while most restrictions have been lifted in the UK, there is still an element of pent up seasonal excitement across the sector, particularly as those same issues have limited certain stocks, leading to increased hype within certain product categories.

The importance of forecasting for your peaks in 2022 and planning inventory accordingly is critical and effective early planning will make sure that you are ahead of the competition at the most important times.

Retail stores and customer experiences

It is well known that the e-commerce share of the retail market was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. 

However it consistently fell after physical stores reopened in April 2021 and is now hovering at the 27% mark as of October according to the ONS. 

For this year, the return of bricks and mortar retail does not mean it can afford to rest on its laurels when it comes to innovating to reflect the new normal and fully embracing the omni-channel concept.

retail - mind the knowledge gap gekko
Time to shop: Retail sector has opportunities and issues to address in the year ahead.

In-store experiences can be re-imagined in a multitude of ways. 

In our recent consumer research, we found that 85% of shoppers are now doing research on a product or brand before heading into store, so ensuring the online and offline integration is faultless has never been more important. 

Even if a customer has decided to buy online, the physical store can still act as a collection or returns hub, importantly still drawing more footfall and further positive brand interactions.

We are now at a stage where the store itself can serve as a portal to e-commerce, as well as a place where customers can interact with a brand’s products. 

With 58% of shoppers saying that it is important to them to be able to see and touch a product before a purchase, the significance of the store shall not diminish. 

It is just that the spaces themselves will evolve into more experiential experiences for consumers.

This experience is not only about how the store presents itself, but also the staff within it. 

Our survey found that 45% of Gen Z customers will seek out great advice in-store, bearing in mind that this is a knowledgeable generation, particularly when it comes to tech products, and the importance of having knowledgeable staff on hand to engage with this valuable demographic is clear. 

2022 retail Forecast 4

In fact, 37% across all ages were willing to spend more on an electrical product if they experienced excellent service in store.

In 2022, stores can be more than just what the customer needs it to be. They can offer truly memorable, loyalty-gaining experiences that drive engagement and, most importantly, are fun to visit.

Sustainability and retail

We move onto the wider issue of sustainability, and this year it will continue to hold an increasingly prominent place in the mind of the consumer. 

The fact is that meeting this criteria with shoppers is not quite as simple as it was before, so for success in this field for 2022, there are certain areas that should be addressed. 

Along with climate related goals, consumers also continue to look for purchases that have the power to give back to their local communities or charities. 

According to NielsenIQ, “Do I need this?” will be one of the pivotal questions among shoppers for 2022, with gifts that offer positive experiences or donations on the up. 

Retailers would do well to keep their eye out for local initiatives they can partner with their customers in order to show support and solidarity.

Actions are positive, but communication also needs to be on point, as sustainability is such a broad topic there are often more questions than answers, but brands that are clear with their objectives and true to their core principles will resonate best with consumers.

Returns

While not the most exciting aspect of the shopping experience by any means, it is predicted that returns will increasingly be one of the key differentiating factors between retailers this year. 

Retailers that want to be at the forefront of this will need to invest in the processes that make this a positive experience for consumers.

For example, according to research by Forrester, three in five consumers prefer retailers that offer free return shipping. 

This quality of life offering encourages people to purchase safely in the knowledge that there will be a stress-free experience in case the product isn’t quite what they were anticipating.

If a return does happen, it is important that the process collects relevant information at all stages, the data from which can help reduce the overall issue in the long run.

The metaverse and in-store technology

Facebook’s recent announcement that it is moving to a “metaverse” focus has pushed the term into the public eye and comes as part of a wider conversation about technology within retail.

metaverse Image by Pete Linforth of Pixabay

We have already seen an increasing amount of collaborations between brands or celebrities with gaming platforms, for example Travis Scott’s virtual concerts within the Fortnite gaming world caught the imagination of many and opened up his music to a huge audience. 

It is likely that this year we see further iterations of retail services within metaverse spaces, no doubt with the world’s largest brands vying to assert the most influence from the beginning.

New technology will also help those on the shop floor. 

As we have seen, 37% of customers are specifically looking for knowledgeable assistance in stores, and with access to the right technology, staff will be able to assist in the customer journey across all channels and have the data at hand to make it a personalised journey.

Having been successfully reactive during the pandemic, it is time for businesses to look forward and find the opportunities to exceed consumers’ continually evolving needs. 

The brands that manage to do this seamlessly across all channels, while embracing fresh insights and new technologies, will be on the front foot this year and beyond.

To read the full article please visit Mediashotz

Photo by Adrian Agawin from Pexels

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The Future of Video Game Retailers

Video game stores have for some years faced the dilemma of how to diversify their offering to stay afloat in a market evolving to become primarily a digital one. Since the launch of the “next generation of consoles” back in 2006, digital downloadable games have been available through the marketplaces of Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo on their respective consoles. However, initially, the list of games available to download was quite limited which benefited retailers as it would not take away business from them. 

Fast forward to 2013 and the next generation of consoles were released. The release of these new consoles brought a brand new, more reliable system in place to download full video games over the internet. The ability to download full games happened on the previous generation however, numerous factors attributed to its rather low popularity as it did not have the stability and the large selection of games as it does on the console’s successor. 

GAME’s game-changing new direction

The PS4 & Xbox One were game-changers in driving interest in digital games. This meant retailers had to diversify their offerings to provide more than just consoles and video games. For example, GAME is now selling Gaming PCs and a lot more accessories for all gaming platforms. On top of this, they provide access in-store to the Belong Arenas which are equipped with all of the latest consoles and gaming PCs with room for around 6 people to game. GAME is a prime example of a company successfully diversifying its business model to become a more experienced/service-based company. This is due to the nature of the video game market and its continuous push towards the all-digital era.

The new direction GAME is taking features a better value proposition. Martyn Gibbs, Chief Executive Officer recently described  BELONG, the Group’s esports and experience-based gaming proposition as “core to our transformation strategy and we continue to expand the business through the opening of larger BELONG gaming arenas while improving our GAME Retail offer to fully capitalise on the strong growth potential in the esports market.” (Waller-Davies, 2018)

This has proven to be successful in driving footfall to their stores with the gaming arenas as proven by the positive recent trading results.

COVID’s accelerating impact on digital transformation

Clearly, a huge impact on the video game retail industry as with all retail was the dramatic impact of COVID. Not solely due to the fact stores were closed, more so due to the change in lifestyle, most people had to adapt to. Logan Plant from IGN described COVID-19 as “not an instigator for the rise of digital media, but simply an accelerator of a trend we’ve seen take shape throughout the last console generation.” (Plant, 2021). Working from home became the norm for 1+ years and subsequently, a lot of businesses had to change how they operated to take advantage of the customers/consumers being stuck at home.

The impact of COVID was a record-breaking year for digital sales of video games. Sony also revealed that nearly 63 per cent of its “full game” sales for the 2020 calendar year came via digital downloads rather than games sold on discs at retail. 

As a result of COVID’s accelerating impact, it is important to reevaluate the current proposition and business direction of video games retailers. The current moves console developers are making into the all-digital era are having a dramatic impact on the performance of bricks and mortar retailers. A significant development happened in 2020 when the latest consoles were released (PS5 & Xbox Series X). These new consoles were released with a cheaper variant; a disk tray-free model with a cheaper price tag available from launch. This highlights the increasing dominance of the digital era and the ongoing decline of physical sales.

Owen Good from Polygon described it in stark terms: “The implication is clear: Video game fans, stuck at home, with the ability to make one-click purchases for entertainment to pass time, will do so in amounts up to the price of a full game.” (Good, 2020)

As an avid Gamer myself who has been a loyal customer of GAME since I could remember my weekends used to involve regular trips to pick up a new game or the latest console at the time. Interacting and talking with knowledgeable staff members was a huge part of the experience.

Embracing an experience-centric playbook

Despite knowledgeable in-store staff that can assist and support the customer journey, the gaming industry has changed to be a primarily digital one. However, despite this reality, there’s still a significant percentage of customers purchasing physical copies of video games. Yet the online giants such as Amazon have further eroded this market, offering next day delivery on the same selection of physical video games that high street retailers offer at a discounted price. 

The same situation is happening with Gamestop, in an article covering which companies would Amazon effect, it stated Gamestop “historically has made its money by serving as the middleman, but the game publishing industry’s move toward downloads and away from discs and cartridges is increasingly making the venue less of a destination for gamers.” (Brumley, 2019).

This of course reduces the need to pop into town and purchase a game. Additionally, on top of the physical video game competitors, each of the gaming platforms also have their own store integrated into the console where you can purchase digital copies of any game on that platform. Digital games usually have a higher RRP, however, they are usually heavily discounted during sales.

In conclusion, it’s clear to see that for retail stores to drive more footfall they need to reposition themselves and expand what they offer as a business. GAME have taken this in their stride and expanded their traditional offering of physical Video Games and Consoles to offer an immersive customer experience including VR, the opportunity to play video games with your friends in the Belong arenas, purchase fully built gaming PC’s along with the necessary accessories and gaming merchandise such as POP Vinyls or plushies. It has been proven that GAME’s new direction has driven footfall and has been profitable for them too. In order to win in the future and remain relevant, it’s time for video games retailers to embrace an ‘experience-centric’ playbook.

References

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