Gekko Team Member Katy Sessions talks about why the Manchester Pride’s equality charter is needed.

Manchester Blog

At Gekko we are very proud that our team member, Katy, contributed without fear in this Manchester Evening News article talking about the Manchester Pride’s equality charter. It is important to us, as an equal opportunities employer, that Katy was able to speak out knowing that it would not affect her career at Gekko.

It’s a great article and we look forward to hearing more from Katy in the future.

Below is the full article including a link to the charter.

 

Why Manchester Pride’s equality charter – which will promote inclusion and safe spaces across Greater Manchester – is so needed

Manchester Pride’s work is at the forefront of public attention over the August bank holiday weekend, when thousands flock to the city for the Big Weekend festival and parade.

But away from the rainbow flags and the world-famous musicians, the work doesn’t stop.

One of Manchester Pride’s latest projects will see them launch an equality and inclusion charter, asking businesses across Greater Manchester to sign a pledge.

That pledge will mean they commit to promote equality and inclusion for LGBTQ+ people, as well as other minority groups, and will provide a set of principles and values they will be expected to meet.

But why exactly is something like this – something promoting basic human right regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, age, social status – necessary?

We spoke to two attendees of one of Manchester Pride’s charter workshops to see what problems minorities face in the workplace.

Sally Carr MBE is the operational director for The Proud Trust, which runs youth groups, peer support, training, events and the LBGT Centre to support young people.

She said: “These days, everything is aggravated by mobile devices – it’s so easy to spread hate crimes and insults at the touch of a button.

“Legislation on the whole has changed to benefit LGBT+ people, but the experiences young people go through are still a problem.

“There’s definitely a fear of coming out in the workplaces. Sometimes the unsaid can speak volumes.

“Micro-aggressions can affect mental health but also physical health. There’s a condition called hypertension which leads to high bloody pressure and symptoms like grinding teeth, and it’s been proven that it affects LGBT and BAME people, and women, the most.

“That can’t be good for employers. If we want the best talent, and the best productivity, workplaces need to be inclusive and safe for everyone.

“It’s important to recognise that diversity and inclusion are not the same thing. Just because a company hires an LGBT+ person does not necessarily mean that they’re inclusive – they might not put minorities in senior positions and then minorities still don’t get a voice.

“Diversity just means people are more aware, it doesn’t necessarily mean that attitudes and behaviours will change. That’s the challenge.”

For many who have been lucky enough to not encounter discrimination, particularly in the workplace, it can be hard to understand the scale of the issues facing LGBTQ+ and other minority groups.

Katy Sessions, who works for marketing consultancy firm Gekko, told us: “It’s not something that ‘normative’ straight people worry about, truthfully.

“I myself have been really lucky that I’ve not experienced discrimination in the workplace. I didn’t have a difficult coming out story or any struggles.

“But I’m aware of really disgusting behaviour in some workplaces. Stereotyping, patronising behaviour.

“Because of my position, because I’ve never been rejected for who I am, I feel that I’m in quite a privileged position where I can speak out for others without fear.

“One major problem with inequality in the workplace is the lack of LGBT role models for young people to look up to. Growing up I didn’t have anyone to aspire to – I still don’t really.

“Young kids don’t see anyone like them that they can aspire to be like. Even when there are LGBT people in prominent positions they often don’t speak publicly about their sexual identities, especially in certain industries like sport.

“I know of someone who works in Manchester who has avoided telling people at work that she’s gay, for fear of how it will affect her career.

“Where are the role models for kids? David Isaac [chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission] is one of the only clear examples I can think of.”

Katy, who volunteered at a youth centre in her 20s, hopes that the equality charter will provide safe spaces for all people of all ages, ethnicities and sexual orientations.

Once Greater Manchester businesses feel safer to minorities, they are more likely to be open and honest with their situations, and that could slowly but surely change the experiences of future generations.

“I hope the charter will do a few things,” she said. “I want it to provide safe spaces. To encourage positive role modelling for younger people who are different to the majority of their peers. I want young people to feel like they have permission to aspire to bigger things.

“Creating a truly diverse and inclusive city is a long process, and this charter won’t be the answer for everything. But it’s a start, it’s a step in the right direction.”

You can find the full article in Manchester Evening News here.

You can find out more about Manchester Pride’s charter here .

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PCR Article – Tech industry reactions to the 2018 Budget

PCR Blog Image

On Monday, Philip Hammond has delivered his third Budget as chancellor. Within the speech a number of things were announced that would affect tech companies and retailers in the UK.

Here’s what the tech and retail channels had to say about the announcements:

Business rates bill

Hammond announced the business rates bill for firms with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will be cut by a third over two years.

Dan Todaro, MD of Gekko: “The introduction of a review for all retailers in England with a rateable value of £51,000 or less, Intended to cut their business rates bill by one third is a positive step realising an annual saving of up to £8,000 for up to 90% of all independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes.

“In some locations this is perhaps too late when you consider the vacant properties on the diminishing high street. It also does not help those retailers, multiple or independent, with a larger footprint. For stores which anchor the high street such as Debenhams, HoF, M&S etc. the reduction in business rates for these retailers by local authorities, delivers a longer term tangible wealth to the community.

“This government constantly refers to a ‘dividend’ for all, which is used entirely in the wrong context, as there’s no dividend for communities who’s high street have already been decimated and resemble ghost towns.”

For the full article please visit PCR

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How new businesses and small businesses can fire up their retail sales and list listing

Fourth Source BlogThe innovation of technology products is developing at a ferocious pace and there’s a gadget for everything and everyone these days.  This has resulted in a very competitive retail environment both on and offline with a continuous flow of new products being launched to market.

However, it is important to note that much of the new tech coming on to the market is originating from innovative start-up brands who may or may not have the marketing muscle or budgets to compete at the same level as established brands.  For example, brands like Tile who have a limited portfolio of products but are bringing innovative tracking technology to the smart home category. Innovation from these types of company is fueling this exciting technological transformation, but we must make sure that these products get to see the rabbit so to speak.  Without brand recall in retail, many brands get lost in the noise those with ‘bigger’ budgets are able to shout about. Your route to market should not merely rely on the big online retailers to show consumers.

Businesses spend time, money and energy pitching to buyers but many fail to prepare properly for when the listing finally gets the green light which in most instances can take months rather than weeks as many brands hope. It may also only be a sample of a retailers estate in which the brand gets the opportunity to prove the viability of their product.  Once a retailer presses the button a brand must fit with the retailers’ timelines and expectations and retailers are savvy operators, not to be underestimated when understanding what their shoppers like. So when the listing begins is when businesses really need to move product, especially in traditional brick and mortar stores.

Some brands are astute enough to have created a strong online presence and awareness already via their own platforms or investment in an advertising campaign but for many building brand awareness and driving conversation really starts with retail.  So, what’s the best retail strategy for a start-up technology brand?

Firstly, don’t just focus online, according to the ONS online sales still only account for 18% of overall retail spend.  And especially for electrical / technology products, which are often a considered purchase our own research shows that people like to go in-store, touch and feel the products, see them working in situ and get advice from store staff on what they should be purchasing.

And despite what many brands may think, you cannot rely on purely the store to sell your products as you will be just one of many established brands in a crowded category or a category of one which no one has heard of or understands fully. Your carefully crafted marketing messages and USPs can easily get lost in translation.  It’s not like an own brand store where everything is within your control but you can take collaborative steps to help how your brand is marketed in third party retail.

Depending on the store and deal being negotiated pick your store strategy carefully.  For example, you may or may not have the option to be in an entire estate and you may have more success and sell through picking off specific stores that attract more of your audience profile. However, which stores you end up is not necessarily your choice but possibly being in fewer stores can make things easier to manage in the short term to establish store presence as sales increase.

This is one of the most crucial times for a start-up brand and getting momentum can make or break a business. Invest in working with a partner, an agency or individual consultant that strategically works as an extension of your sales and marketing strategy and enables your limited resources to focus on the ‘bigger picture’, making the right connections in store – connecting your brand with both the sales staff and consumers alike. Don’t leave it to chance or risk being ignored.

Work with the store to create an experience and we’re not talking here a large scale costly production.  Merchandise well and manage the retail space so consumers can learn, look, touch and interact with the product effortlessly. But most importantly, develop a relationship with management and shop floor staff.  Show them that you’re a brand that means business and is going to invest in them as a partner. Seeding product with selected store staff is common practice and enables them to talk sincerely about your product based on actual usage and therefore encouraging them to become an evangelist of your brand.   You ideally want to create a store full of influencers who are willing you to succeed so charm them, train them and reward them.

Innovation is fueling this exciting technological transformation, must make sure that these products get into the hands of retail store advisors who are capable of selling it and ultimately into the consumers’ basket. Considered purchases take time and an approach that resonates with a consumer’s lifestyle and need. Brands should not just be reliant on the big online retailers who are not the panacea many brands perceive them to be. Marketing online is another Pandora’s box we can discuss next time.

For the full article please visit Fourth Source

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How do small tech businesses fire up their retail sales?

The Drum Article Blog Picture

Innovation of technology is happening at a ferocious pace and it seems that there’s a gadget for everything and everyone these days. This has resulted in a very competitive retail environment both on and offline with a continuous flow of new products being launched to market.

However, it’s important to note that much of the new tech coming on to the market is originating from innovative start-up brands who may, or may not, have the marketing muscle or budgets to compete at the same level as established brands. For example, brands like Tile, who have a limited portfolio of products are bringing innovative tracking technology to the smart home category. Innovation from these types of company is exciting, but we must make sure that these products get to see the rabbit so to speak. Without brand recall in retail, many brands get lost in the noise when competing against those with bigger marketing budgets to woo the attention and support of major retailers.

Businesses spend time, money and energy pitching to buyers but many fail to prepare properly for when their online listing finally gets the green light, which can often take far longer than expected – i.e. months rather than weeks. It may also only be a sample of a retailer’s estate in which the brand gets the opportunity to prove the viability of their product. Once a retailer presses the button, a brand must fit with the retailers’ timelines and expectations and retailers are savvy operators, not to be underestimated when understanding what their shoppers like. The moment the listing begins is when businesses really need to move product, especially in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Some brands are astute enough to have created a strong online presence and awareness already via their own platforms or investment in an advertising campaign but for many, building brand awareness and driving conversation really starts with retail. So, what’s the best retail strategy for a start-up technology brand?

Get real

Firstly, don’t just focus online. According to the ONS online sales still only account for 18% of overall retail spend. This is especially true for electrical/technology products, which are often a considered purchase. Our own research shows that people like to go in-store, touch and feel the products, see them working in situ and get advice from store staff on what they should be purchasing.

Despite what many brands may think, you cannot rely on purely the store to sell your products as you will be just one of many established brands in a crowded category, or a category of one which no one has heard of or understands fully. Your carefully crafted marketing messages and USPs can easily get lost in translation. It’s not like an own brand store where everything is within your control. You can, however, take collaborative steps to help how your brand is marketed in third party retail.

Depending on the store and deal being negotiated pick your store strategy carefully. For example, you may or may not have the option to be in an entire estate and you may have more success and sell through picking off specific stores that attract more of your audience profile. However, which stores you end up in is not necessarily your choice; possibly being in fewer stores can make things easier to manage in the short term to establish store presence as sales increase.

Hearts and minds

This is one of the most crucial times for a start-up brand and getting momentum can make or break a business. Invest in working with a partner, an agency or individual consultant that strategically works as an extension of your sales and marketing strategy and enables your limited resources to focus on the ‘bigger picture’, making the right connections in store – connecting your brand with both the sales staff and consumers alike. Don’t leave it to chance or risk being ignored.

Work with the store to create an experience. This doesn’t have to be a large scale costly production. Merchandise well and manage the retail space so consumers can learn, look, touch and interact with the product effortlessly. But most importantly, develop a relationship with management and shop floor staff.

Show them you’re a brand that means business and is going to invest in them as a partner. Seeding product with selected store staff is common practice and enables them to talk sincerely about your product based on actual usage and therefore encouraging them to become an evangelist of your brand. You ideally want to create a store full of influences who are willing you to succeed so charm them, train them and reward them.

Innovation is fueling this exciting technological transformation, must make sure that these products get into the hands of retail store advisors who are capable of selling it and ultimately into the consumers’ basket. Considered purchases take time and an approach that resonates with a consumer’s lifestyle and need. Brands should not just be reliant on the big online retailers who are not the panacea many brands perceive them to be. Marketing online is another Pandora’s box we can discuss next time.

For the full article visit The Drum.

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IFA 2018: Would you like some assistants?

IFA Blog image copy

Google’s Assistant was all over the Berlin trade show as more and more brands were building voice activation into their products.

Once again IFA did not fail to impress with almost every CE brand attending – in fact there were 1,814 exhibitors over 161,200 square metres.

One brand, however, appeared to dominate and that was Google with its Google Assistant, which was almost everywhere. This included every booth that had a Google Assistant-enabled product on show, further demonstrating how Google is gaining against Amazon’s Alexa.

With assistant-enabled products in laundry from Hoover Candy, cooking with Electrolux, to smartwatches from TicWatch, thermostats from Netatmo and doorbells from Ring, extending to TVs from Toshiba, Hisense, LG and Panasonic, who both also have connected speakers, the dominance of voice assistants was most definitely the story at IFA.

One brand that stood out for me was LG, not just because of its impressive ‘Canyon’ TV display, but also its ability to appeal to a broad church of consumers across all demographics. Its innovation is visionary from its Cloi SuitBot and PorterBot that serve a niche and showcase LG’s vision of the future, to its core consumer offerings. Two standouts were the Instaview fridge with the knock twice to see inside feature, and the stunning 8K OLED television with greater contrast – although that’s not due for release anytime soon.

8K OLED

In a parallel launch, we saw Samsung reveal the equivalent 8K QLED with greater emphasis on light. This is a viable 8K TV slated to be available in the UK market this month.

BBC technology correspondent Rory CellanJones asked: “Is it just another gimmick to sell us more TVs, especially when only four years ago we were being told 4K was cutting edge?” Some may agree but, as marketers and retailers, our job is to sell the boundaries of possibilities to consumers and new products like these benefit the industry and rejuvenate categories.

Last month, ERT featured an interview with David Flintoft from Toshiba, who stated: “We want to be the best value option in the UHD space – we’re offering key technologies and good-quality, well-priced, mainstream products.”

Based on what Toshiba exhibited at IFA, Wall Art Concept 4KUHD included, it is in a very good place to dominate and steal market share, offering retailers more choice and flexibility. An opportunity to refresh your TV ranging with an established brand that is coming back stronger through each new product range.

In audio, the standout was the Yamaha MusicCast VINYL 500 – a superb innovation that enables you to stream your vinyl wirelessly to your speakers. Is this the future of turntables?

From audio to SDAs, where the most significant innovation came from Panasonic, which announced its Croustina ZP2000 bread-maker, promising the ability to bake an authentic, hardcrust loaf in your own home. For those who like bread makers, it’s a great reason to upgrade and a great gifting item for Christmas.

MDAs were also getting smarter, with almost all brands introducing smart appliances that either have compatibility or an ‘assistant’ built in.

Key brands and products to watch, that many independents will no doubt be ranging soon, include Beko, Hoover, Electrolux and Candy. These products enable you to ask ‘how to’, as demonstrated by Hoover Candy, which incidentally holds a 56 per cent market share in ‘connected’ washing. Users can set appliances to start at any given moment as commanded by the assistant.

Retro

Nice additions to IFA were retro brands Polaroid and Kodak. Polaroid showed off its Mint – a twoin-one instant digital camera and printer in a range of colours. It can quickly print high-quality photos with an option of modes to personalise your picture.

Kodak identified an area other printer manufacturers haven’t quite managed to acknowledge – we like to print photos that look like photos and are easy to print – with its Printomatic, Mini Shot Instant Print cameras and impressive Photo Printer Dock.

With growth in our local market and the innovations at IFA, many of which are available now, opportunities await those who get their ranging and consumer marketing mix correct.

Time to get to grips with social media

Blog Image

As I write this article, Amazon Prime Day, which ran for 36 hours across July 16-17, has been and gone. But it wasn’t free from issues, with reported instances of links not functioning and pricing on some items not the lowest available.

This resulted in some abandoned baskets and frustration for consumers who had deliberately postponed their purchases until Prime Day, which had been heavily advertised in advance.

An omni-channel approach to retail, while not necessarily essential, is advisable if retailers are to compete effectively against strong online competition. But you have to get it right, as Amazon inadvertently demonstrated.

So why should independent retailers make the most of digital marketing and in particular social media?

Retail giants such as Amazon and Currys PC World have huge budgets to spend on marketing, but that doesn’t mean independent retailers can’t expand their reach beyond their local community or stand out. By better understanding your market and tailoring content, a digital strategy can increase footfall in-store and sales off- and online.

The new 2018 Global Digital suite of reports reveals that there are now more than four billion people around the world using the internet. Independents have an equal chance to capture the attention of new and existing customers.

Don’t be put off by how many online shoppers there are. In the considered purchases category, consumers still want to go to stores for the experience – if you give them a reason to.

Gekko’s recent OnePoll ‘influencer’ research has conclusively proved that ‘over 50 per cent off’ shoppers still want to head to a store to see, touch and experience a product in person. An effective digital strategy can help attract these customers in-store.

Be social

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram can all help grow customer relationships and drive sales online and off-line. The trick is to listen, respond and promote in line with the customer profile you are selling to. Be creative, be professional and be engaging.

Many independent retailers don’t have an army of social media experts behind them. But it is still possible to leverage topical news and mentions of related products and conversations that can attract attention to specific products or brands you are ranging. A good example is the potential increase in SDA sales linked to news around broadcasts of Great British Bake Off (GBBO).

Don’t be afraid to use any opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. Get involved in the conversations across all social media channels to raise your profile.

Listen to your customers. If you are being messaged online, respond to and actually log what they are saying. The better you understand customers’ needs, the easier it is to sell to them and others.

If you build brand loyalty online, you can then direct the shopper in-store. It’s the perfect opportunity to build a fan base.

Responding to customer feedback online, good or bad, is vital to ensuring your profile and standing are heightened. Don’t ignore negative comments, these must be addressed and used to direct the customer to the store for more help or the chance to try another product – take the conversation off-line, but resolve it and then drive them to the store.

Ultimately, the main aim is to get people in-store. Social media is the ideal platform for retailers to post promotions, new products, launches and in-store events so that customers that wouldn’t normally see them are engaged and inspired to walk in. Promote ‘shares’ from other people and encourage a social culture among your staff. By doing so, it can only help to attract new customers to your store and more importantly your ‘high street’, with your store supporting a vibrant shopping environment for the community.

When considering promotions, the key to the right promotion is tailored communications. Experiment with Facebook advertising to target people near the store and send them an offer that they can’t refuse or a message that piques their curiosity.

Independent retailers have the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and be different from the generic multiples – customers appreciate this in a saturated marketplace where a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is all too common.

Keeping track
It’s vital to track any online campaigns that you run – big or small. Measure the number of customers that have gone into store as a result of seeing an online advert or post by using promotional codes and training your staff to ask how they found you. This heightens the personal nature of in-store shopping, while telling you more about their customer.

Once it’s clear what works best and how to communicate with the right customers, those that will purchase, a digital strategy offers a world of opportunities.

Those of you who firmly believe it’s ‘not for you’ are increasingly alienating yourselves from a target audience. If you use social media in your personal life, then so do your current and future customers.

Read the full article on ERT Online.

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IFA 2018: Substance or hype?

IFA Blog graphic copy

I’ve been coming to IFA for many years and as a self-confessed gadget addict it’s like being a kid in a sweet shop. But like deciding which sweets to buy all those years ago, it’s a bit overwhelming and disappointing if you don’t choose wisely and suffer from buyers’ remorse!

So, here’s my take on what consumers should look out for and how marketers and retailers can prepare themselves for what innovations are coming next:

This year IFA was very comfortable in its own skin. Its confidence bolstered by the fact that Europe is a big market and like it or not, the UK whilst important does not set the agenda – so we didn’t see Brexit significantly impact the conversation. But what we do have to be aware of is that there are new, more stringent energy efficiency ratings for Major Domestic Appliances being implemented by the EU in 2019, that if not adopted in the UK could mean consumers are being sold products which are less energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

It’s either going to be easier or more difficult for brands to distribute in the UK – which would be a sad day for British consumers, who are low on the list for renewable energies and could potentially have appliances that are uncategorised.

Over the last four years as, smart technologies evolved from infancy to real life products and applications, brands are feeling excited and confident about the future and not surprisingly and as predicted last year the voice assistant is driving the conversation. There are still only really two major players, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. And as you walked into IFA 2018 it was awash with Google branding, experiential and staff across the event on every third party stand with Google Assistant enabled products taking a lead compared to Amazon with Alexa.

Most of the innovation on show was about the connected home via voice control, from washing machines with Hoover, Candy and Beko through to smart speakers, thermostats, lighting and TVs. Infact, AI assistants are being integrated into pretty much everything you can imagine. But as I’ve said all along and continue to maintain, a smart kettle needs a human to fill it with water and pour said water, a smart washing machine needs someone to put the garments in and take them out…..need I go on?

Every brand had a big bold stand with beautiful products, displayed to meet the exacting expectations of the tech savvy consumer however there’s nothing really ground breaking. For brands operating in crowded categories, it’s difficult to gain cut through in all the noise. The mistake some brands have made is to overcompensate for no news by regurgitating the old to the disappointment of visitors. Sometimes a brand can gain more credibility by playing it cool like Samsung, Sony and LG.

Those who have something new to scream about are making themselves hoarse doing so but to great effect in some cases. Would B&O have received the media coverage it did for the Beosound Edge? Unlikely when you consider its £2900 price tag, not your average mainstream product. A close second is 8K TVs which are coming to market soon from LG with no firm launch date and from Samsung in September. However, the only problem with this is that no one is currently broadcasting in 8K, studios aren’t producing on mass in 8K and it’s going to be prohibitively expensive. The first mainstream broadcast in 8k is likely to be from Japanese broadcaster NHK for the Tokyo Olympics in 2022.

As Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technology Correspondent, suggested, “is it just another gimmick to sell us more TVs especially when only four years ago we were being told 4K was cutting edge.”

I agree but as marketers our job is to sell the boundaries of possibilities to consumers. New products like these benefit the industry and rejuvenate categories. And of course, there was the ridiculous. The Candy Millennial Pink Edition washing machine, a season too late, raised a laugh at the press conference in being ridiculed by a senior executive, although perhaps the real message was lost in translation. It does though provide a lesson on trends and press announcements. Brands should be aware of not desperately trying to create headlines with new colour variations of their products taking the place of real innovation.

One clear message I’ve translated from many brands is the lack of consideration for the customer journey. They have been so wrapped up in ‘bigging’ up the product launch, gaining distribution through retailer listings and advertising that the customer journey, the only true measure of the effectiveness ATL achieves, is left until last and is almost an afterthought.

Brands need to spend more time considering the customer journey and if they invest even 10% of the ATL budget, I know it will exponentially increase sales in retail where over 80% of considered purchases in the consumer electronics category happen. There’s a higher expectation from consumers than ever and technology brands need to nail it to succeed in crowded categories, so let’s make sure we listen to what they need, rather than just giving them what we want.

Read the full article at Lovely Mobile News

 

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MOP UP THOSE SMART SALES

Many people are afraid of smart tech, don’t understand it or how it can make life easier. This is where independent retailers have a golden opportunity, says Daniel Todaro, MD of field marketing agency Gekko

Gekko has once again proudly collaborated with ERT on this year’s Turning Point survey as part of the ERT Awards. It will be interesting to see what the findings are this year in relation to the smart home.

Last year’s survey revealed that 38 per cent of independent retailers that responded didn’t believe that selling the smart home was for them.

Now, I may not have a crystal ball, but I do have a clear view of the category’s growth since then and would be shocked if the figure remained this low in 2018.

I have commented a great deal over the past couple of years that the smart home is something to be embraced and is a category where physical retailers have an opportunity to outsmart their online competitors. It is early days for the category and there is the potential for a lack of understanding on the part of the consumer, made worse by scepticism about the real-world benefits.

Concerns about security are also a factor and so an assisted sales approach, where shoppers can properly experience products and talk to an expert, can make all the difference. In providing a superior customer experience, sales and your customer base can be developed to achieve smart profits.

Popularity
What is for certain, the smart home’s popularity isn’t going to fade – it’s no fad. This is evident from the fact that three-quarters of people have heard of the term smart home compared with just over half (57 per cent) in 2015. And with a current average of 10 connected devices per UK household, we aren’t scaling back on our connected addiction.

BBC’s Panorama recently predicted that by 2020 there would be 420 million connected devices across the UK. The smart home now even has its own ‘week’ – May 21-27 this year. This was a showcase for the very best in smart, connected and integrated home technology.

Its purpose was to inform, educate and reassure UK consumers about the benefits and opportunities of living in a smart, connected way.

Research conducted by Smart Home Week forecast that 42 per cent of consumers see the majority of UK homes being smart within the next 10 years.But I think it will be higher and sooner.

From my point of view, running an agency that loves both tech and retail, we’re passionate about understanding how the smart home is being marketed and identifying what the appeal is for the consumer, so we can support our brands in retail as best we can. Key to achieving this is identifying consumer purchasing habits and the sales opportunities the category presents.

One area to consider is what to range and sell. A lot has been said about smart speakers and voice-enabled AI devices integrating with home entertainment and that these are perhaps an easy, and relatively affordable, route into the world of smart technology. This is true, but we shouldn’t ignore some of the other product areas.

I think that smart home appliances is a category the general public is becoming increasingly aware of. While smart fridges and washing machines have been around for a while, high prices and doubts about their true benefits have meant they haven’t see adoption by the masses.

Active
Hoover Candy has been active recently with above-the-line campaigns talking about their app-enabled products.

While some may see a remotely accessible camera in an oven as unnecessary, many will warm to their Vision oven, where an integrated touch-screen provides recipes, instruction and a live view of what’s cooking. As lifestyles change, so do our opinions and habits. What we may have considered a ‘novelty’ may now be relevant to the lifestyle of the generation that these products are aimed at.

Smart tech is also extending to SDAs and outside into the garden space. Smart robotic vacuum cleaners are increasingly popular and a new device to me is the iRobot Braava mopping robot. In the garden, robotic lawnmowers are a desirable piece of tech and the market is expected to grow 20 per cent by 2022.
Apart from what type of smart products to consider selling, I think the approach taken in-store by sales staff should also be factored in – and I don’t mean reviewing sales skills, but rather appreciating how the end-user uses smart tech.

To better understand the consumer, we wanted to take a slightly different tack from previous studies and look at those who have bought into the smart home, how they use their products and what their concerns are.

Gekko’s Smart Home Shopper poll delivered some useful insights that can help brands and retailers increase their profits.

The study found that 56 per cent of adults had bought the latest must-have smart-home tech, including wi-fi controlled security cameras, heating systems and speakers, but had been left scratching their heads when they got them home as they had little idea what to do with the stuff they’ve bought. More than 30 per cent of the consumers we asked said they regretted buying at least one or more items of smart-home technology because it proved so difficult to get up and running, while many said they couldn’t get all their devices to connect – which is surely the whole point of having a ‘smart home’.

Coupled with this, nearly a third of them said they never read instructions or manuals when they buy a new piece of kit and 21 per cent admitted that, although they had a love of tech, they were intimidated by the complexities of it.

Forty-five per cent of people said the trickiest bit of kit to install was security equipment, including app-controlled doorbells, motion sensors and CCTV, while 28 per cent couldn’t get their smart lighting to work. And more than a third (35 per cent) came unstuck when installing their smart heating systems. Yet, these are the most popular items to purchase within the smart-home tech product portfolio.

And despite its current popularity, 30 per cent of adults that had purchased a smart speaker, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, didn’t understand all its functionality and smart features.

There’s clearly a customer need here that’s not being fulfilled by retailers. Smart-home tech is popular, but people don’t know how to fully utilise it to meet their lifestyle needs – whether that’s convenience, money saving, leisure time or learning.

Significant 
One significant barrier for shoppers is concern over how secure smart home devices are. Our study highlighted this, as did the findings from Smart Home Week, which found that 62 per cent of people were worried about the threat of smart homes being hacked. So be prepared to overcome this potential barrier and offer up some security advice as part of the sales process, or at least be able to point customers in the right direction.

All this is a great opportunity, especially for bricks-and-mortar retailers, to enhance the customer experience within the smart-home category by developing an environment where consumers can ‘play’, and a retail team that can articulate the features of each product in detail and match consumer needs to product performance.

The customer journey in retail needs enhancing to increase profitability and as the smart home establishes itself deeper across multiple categories, the approach in store must evolve to meet trends and the popularity of smart products.

Through an increased effort, what you do at the point of purchase will keep people coming back to traditional bricks-and-mortar stores for experiences they’ll never get online.

Top tips to sell smart tech

  • Show products in a proper context by displaying them in the way that consumers will use them, emphasising real-world use and benefits.
  • Demonstrate usability by linking the smart gadgets to one another as some clever retailers have done in selected stores, emphasising that they don’t have to be standalone products.
  • Seed or loan products to your sales staff so that they can become users and advocates and bring their real-life into the sales conversation.
  • Ask your suppliers and brands for support. Product training for your sales staff or brand ambassadors to engage with shoppers at peak times will all help drive business and a positive in-store experience. Whether directly, or using an agency such as Gekko, encourage brands to provide support on a campaign or ongoing basis to assist in maintaining continuity of customer experience in line with the advertising messaging.

Read the full article at ERTOnline

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Back to school: a lesson in brand relations

 

Back to school in my youth was always met with a heavy sigh when my parents calculated the uniform costs and I wanted the latest pencils and rubbers. These days, trends have changed. Thanks to the competition among discount supermarkets like Aldi, Lidl and Asda we’ve seen uniform costs and stationary prices plummet, giving consumers a far greater choice at more reasonable prices often using ‘event’ advertising campaigns increasing footfall into store and bolstering revenues in other areas of their business.

There’s one category that’s changed everything as it becomes a staple of the ‘Back to School’ event, particularly in higher education: consumer electronics – to be precise computing – adding a whole new layer of cost parents must budget for. While retailers should consider an all-year-round back-to-education strategy, back to school begins to increase in prominence from August, especially in the technology category. The value of the back-to-school market in the UK is estimated to be worth around £1.45bn and while uniforms and stationery will make up a large proportion of this market, the increasing requirement for technology in the classroom means that edu-tech continues to be a growth opportunity for retailers.

Every school, college and university around the UK differs, but they all require some level of ‘technology’ input and expense from parents. As government budgets for school funding continue to decrease, this need will only get bigger and more expensive. It’s a costly exercise and therefore something no parent or student wants to get wrong. A bring your own device (BYOD) policy is becoming common place and enables the market to grow to support this with the right advertising, marketing and in-store execution. As a considered purchase – and for many their first computer that they don’t have to share – the need to try before you buy is important. It’s a seminal moment for most teens. The look, the feel, the height and size are vitally important to most, especially in our streaming culture where the device is both for work and play.

Not everyone is tech literate and understands what product is best for their child and, yes, some schools have preferred suppliers, but often parents are sent out into the big wide world to get a lap top or a PC and the choice is overwhelming and confusing. This often leads to a whole host of questions: what hardware and platform do I opt for? What software will I need to buy? What about security? Is it going to be out of date before the end of the school year? Is it robust enough? Am I spending more than is necessary?

For teenagers going to University this is a chance to upgrade their old ‘shared’ kit and start fresh with new equipment that has the functionality to assist them in delivering their course and honing their tech skills ready for the workplace. This is a great opportunity for brick and mortar retailers to position themselves as the advisor – the place to go when you’re inundated with choice, don’t know what to buy or where to go to experience the products to touch and feel and work out if they’re right for you.

The ability to choose from a range in an environment geared towards making this decision is crucial for university and tertiary education students; different courses will require the technology to have specific functionality. Retailers need to be inquisitive and understand the student’s lifestyle to match the product to their needs. Technology purchases are not just about the one product these days, they are multi-functional lifestyle solutions, so in-store staff have to be trained to ask the most pertinent questions: What will you study? Is design (weight and size) a primary consideration? How do you consume media and home entertainment? What’s the budget?

Amazon will be a key back-to-school destination – especially for the 30% of Brits that now have Prime membership – but this is something Amazon and other online retailers can never do as effectively when a personal approach to a considered purchase is needed by a brand and retailer.

Never underestimate the first consumer interaction with your brand – an emotional connection that shouldn’t be undervalued. Not only is it a great opportunity for a brand to bring a new customer into their portfolio and up-sell them through their product ecosystem as their needs and lifestyle changes; it is also the chance to create an advocate and customer for life. Brands invest heavily in extra activity around back-to-education including Fresher’s Fairs and NUS affiliated marketing. Paying attention to planning and implementing in-store strategies within retail is an essential part of any back-to-education marketing strategy.

Daniel Todaro is managing director at Gekko

Read the original article on The Drum

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GIVE THEM A RETAIL EXPERIENCE THAT’S WORTH THE TRIP

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You will convert more customers if you sell them a ‘solution’ that solves their problem rather than a product at a price that may be cheaper online anyway, says Daniel Todaro, managing director at field marketing agency Gekko

Let’s be honest, it’s a challenge out there in retail and every one of us shudders when we see superb businesses like Maplin hanging up the ‘closing down’ signs.

It’s now more important than ever to offer a solution-based sales model to your customers, converting as many as possible of those precious shoppers who take the time to visit your store.

Whatever their motivation for coming into your store, consumers are looking for a solution to a lifestyle problem. As a retailer, it’s within your power to provide this solution, offering consumers the right product for their needs and reinforcing why traditional retail is still the best platform to buy consumer electronic products.

Overall online sales were up 13.9 per cent year on year in January, with footfall down 6.6 per cent and it was almost 12 per cent down in London and the South-East.

When you look at the CE category, this was only up 4.4 per cent online, suggesting that shoppers are more hesitant to go online for big-ticket, considered purchases.

That first face-to-face interaction is critical. Sales staff should be asking key questions of consumers to discover why they are in the store, their needs, budget and motivations, in order to create the foundations of a solution-sales approach.

Is your shopper looking to buy new, upgrade or has something broken down? What do they currently have? What features do they require? Where will it be used? How often? Is it a primary or secondary device? What is their preferred price range? Do they need it installed? A customer wants reassurance that the product will meet their needs.

It is important to ensure your staff can demonstrate the product and explain the benefits. And don’t ignore what the shopper tells you, so that the features link naturally to their needs. This could make all the difference to their decision to purchase.

If shoppers can see how the product will solve their unique ‘problem’, they will go away satisfied and come back for more. Online will never be able to provide this level of service, so retailers need to take control of their destiny and provide consumers with an experience that was worth the trip.

Gekko’s OnePoll ‘influencer’ research has conclusively proved that ‘50 per cent off’ shoppers still want to head to a store to see, touch and experience a product in person. Now you’ve got them in your store, you should also know that our research showed that 35 per cent are influenced by recommendations from shop staff.

So the training you give your staff is possibly the most important part of achieving effective solution-based sales. Imagine how great it would be to convert that 35 per cent. If a shopper has confidence in a salesperson who focuses on their needs as a whole, rather than just on a particular product, they are more likely to purchase. You will instil confidence in your shopper and also build that all-important relationship that converts them into a customer who will keep coming back.

If you don’t believe me, the research also showed that that only 10 per cent of customers were influenced by celebrity endorsement, or 15 per cent by bloggers, etc. This is because there is no tangible engagement with, or as much trust in, these opinions to create a meaningful relationship. Compare this with the 71 per cent who are influenced by word of mouth from friends and family. The back-and-forth conversation needed between shopper and salesperson for solution selling is vital for building the trust needed to buy based on their recommendation.

This underlines the importance of having well-trained staff that know the products inside out and the lifestyle issues that each product helps address. We work with our brands to understand what strategy works by measuring sales before, during and after. One example from a connected-home partner confirmed that the number of units sold in three store groups in the 10 days after a briefing and merchandising campaign increased by 45 per cent. But 10 days later, sales dropped marginally, as staff didn’t continue the solution-selling techniques they’d been trained in.

The need to retain and continue the solution-based approach highlights the need for regular training and is proven to convert your shoppers into customers today, tomorrow and long into the future.

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