Independent retailers: It’s tough at the top

ERT Blog

As all retailers know, seeing in a new year is not the time to put your feet up and relax, it’s a time to reflect on what’s worked, how to survive the January sales without giving stuff away and think about how to keep winning in 2020. There’s a whole heap of independent retailers thriving so let’s take a few moments to sprinkle a little new year magic and hopefully inspire even more to success.

When independent retailers are thinking about customers, store, product and marketing it can be overwhelming, let alone trying to apply innovative thinking to tried and tested strategies. I’ve consciously taken price out of the equation – we all know it’s impossible for independent retailers to compete on price with the behemoths like Amazon – so value for money, reflected in customers, store, product and marketing – not the cheapest should be the mantra of independent retailers. So how do independent retailers do this?

Let’s start with customers. Independent retailers should know their customers better than any multiple retailer ever can. Do you know what they are buying and when and if not, you should be seriously asking yourself why? And if you do know, are you fleet of foot enough to be agile with your merchandising strategy in order to stock the goods that your customers want?

Advanced technology solutions aren’t what’s needed here, your POS will be able to provide basic information about your customers and all you need to do is let your team do the talking and stalking.

Listen, talk to and watch your customers and learn from their behaviour. When was the last time you asked your customers what type of products they’d like to see in the shop? How would they improve the shop? Making the customer feel like it’s their shop is something the larger brands can never do – and use that to increase product sale through. And think about whether your customer service is worth bragging about! Remembering what your customers bought is the start of a rewarding relationship.

Do everything you can to turn your shop into a destination and take inspiration from what the larger brands are doing, especially in their concept stores. Your shop needs to be an enjoyable experience with an element of discovery every time your customers go there. You wouldn’t eat at the same restaurant multiple times if the menu never changed. If you are selling electrical goods, people want your expertise and experience to buy products they know will be fit for purpose.

Sell the solution and impart practical advice rather than just selling products in isolation. Obvious, but something an online experience can’t replicate. Make sure you know your products and the market and that you communicate this intimate knowledge to potential customers – they don’t know what they aren’t told – and provide an environment in which they feel welcome. Even if it’s a small shop, there’s still no reason why you can’t provide two chairs and a coffee machine to encourage people to sit down and discuss with you their needs – again, increasing sale through and customer loyalty.

And then there’s the marketing strategy, and I don’t just mean ‘brand’ – you all know that a consistent brand experience is important for brand re-call. This is where I think independent retailers have an opportunity to think bigger.

We asked 2,000 UK adults if they thought independent retailers should collaborate to come up with innovate ideas like sharing shop space and marketing costs to cut down on their individual overheads and 73 per cent thought it was a great idea. Every shop on the high street is in the same position, yet despite the current challenges each is still operating in silo.

Get to know your neighbours, seek collective advice and behave like a group rather than individual businesses. Collaborate to organise customer events as well as on marketing drives to reach a wider audience. Joint special events, discount schemes and offering a local delivery service and recycling throughout the year, not only at key times, will all help in developing your customer base.

Independent retailers are the beating heart of our communities and have a huge amount to offer. Collectively helping each other to apply some innovative techniques will hopefully improve the fortunes of many.

To read the full article please visit ERT.

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2020 will be a smarter year for retail

PCR Blog

We know that smart home technology has revolutionised the way we live at home and according to PWC’s recent white paper, Connected Home 2.0, £10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in the UK in 2019. With the increased availability and adoption of 5G in the UK, I predict that the options on offer will only get smarter and extend their reach to every room in the household.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G – from downloading a full HD movie in under five seconds to making fully automated vehicles a reality – but I believe 5G will be a transformative technology for the home, as it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting devices, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look around your home, count up the numerous devices that are connected and smart. It’s only going to get more prevalent in our lives and the places we reside and work in.

Barring any changes as a result of the General Election, the government were supportive of a £530 million proposal from the UK’s mobile network operators for a Shared Rural Network with the potential for it to be matched by a £500 million investment from the government. This would be a world-first deal with all the UK carriers – EE, O2, Three, Vodafone – investing in a network of new and existing phone masts they would all share.

For consumers it means they will be able to rely on their own provider’s network to use their mobile phones wherever they are in the UK. More importantly it will improve connectivity in areas with poor or no broadband. The upcoming 5G rollout is one reason why experts predict that more than 36 billion devices globally will be connected to the internet by the end of 2020, all of them smart.

Away from mobile phones, the connected home covers pretty much every category from AV, including smart speakers to thermostats, lightbulbs, your washing machine, fridge, oven and kettle. You name it and it’s probably smart and will integrate into your life with the tap of a device or command of your voice. That’s why Google has created the Google Assistant Connect programme, which for manufacturers means that they can create custom devices that serve specific functions and are integrated with Google Assistant making more assistant enabled devices available within all categories.

With this mass adoption across multiple CE categories it’s anticipated that the user experience will undergo a significant shift in how users utilise and interact with smart technology and AI.

This would mean a more ‘Multi Experience’ model which changes the manner, usage and approach with our smart devices to shift both perception and interaction to a multisensory experience. For instance, adapting the lighting to a mood that’s personal to you and not generic, or managing your life more personally by telling you how your commute to work will be and what to wear based on the weather forecast before you’ve even thought about it, just by looking at your diary, which of course you’ve integrated or shared voluntarily with your AI device.

All this would happen more seamlessly, without the need to constantly repeat a ‘wake word’ such as ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Alexa’ and instead using the wake word once to continue the instructions with your AI device not only making the usage of AI more beneficial when multitasking but also more of a user centric experience.

And all these devices will need to be connected, and if not by 5G it will be through the development of WiFi 6, which drastically improve wireless communication protocols, increasing download speeds by three times the current WiFi 5 we use today and enabling even more connected devices, which will be more adept at natural language.

The upshot is that we will inevitably utilise smart devices with built in AI to a much greater extent, such as for ordering shopping, which is incidentally predicted to jump globally by 2020 – a blow for traditional retail, especially when you consider that it’s estimated a staggering 85% of purchasing suggestions made by Amazon are effective. It’s no wonder why retailers are torn on supporting Amazon or not. For example, in November, Nike withdrew all its products from sale on the Amazon platform.

It’s true to say that technology in 2020 will give with one hand and take from another, all for the sake of progress and convenience, but for consumers, it’s about choice. The choice to automate much of what we may consider tedious or periphery. The choice to share your data with any amount of organisations, known and unknown (you may wish to read those T&Cs you freely agree to. I know you won’t, nobody does).

There is also the choice for retailers to take on the challenge of selling smart technology effectively in an engaging manner that enables a positive experience for the consumer. More importantly for offline retail to rise to the challenge faced by online retailers and offer more – starting with a better customer journey.

Tor ead the full article please visit PCR.

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Live the Experience and Feel the Brand

BrandingMag Blog

Henry Matisse once said “creativity takes courage” and we’ve certainly seen a lot of creative bravery from brands that now have an incredible marketing canvas on which to paint. It’s a great time to be a marketer, leveraging opportunity and enabling people to immerse and engage in what a brand has to offer. And this has seen some incredible business transformations, with brands rising out of the ashes to new-found fame whilst others find themselves, sadly, unable to capitalize.

Let’s take Gucci, for example, and think about where it would be without social media. Partnerships with the upper echelon of society and celebrities were no longer cutting it – Gucci is a beautiful, classic, heritage brand that had lost its relevance. But wait a few years, bring in the influencers, and Gucci is massively cool again. If Billie Eilish wears it, then who am I to judge?! And, of course, this is all backed up by expensive, gorgeous, and glamorous ATL activations.

However, one thing that these currently successful brands all appear to have invested in is the ‘brand experience store’ — and bringing marketing to life on the shop floor. If you’re going to buy a Gucci handbag that you see on Instagram, Facebook or TV, you’re certainly going to want to touch and feel it before you buy it. For some people, it may be like buying a high-street bag but for others this purchase will be a naughty bit of extravagance or a once-in-a-blue-moon treat.

Creative brand artistry needs to live in the ‘real world’ for consumers and to maintain longevity for a brand. Consumers need to be able to feel, see, touch, and engage with a brand and its products to truly buy into it, not just for one purchase. So, with brick and mortar retail struggling globally, it’s important that we hero its role for brands, consumers, the community, and society in general. In the UK, 78% of purchases are still made in physical retail — a figure that astonishes most people.

Retailers may have axed 85,000 UK jobs in the last year, according to the British Retail Consortium, and yes, it’s tragic, but a lot of the blame lies with those brands that didn’t have the agility to reimagine their business models quick enough, with too many stores and not enough experience. But juxtaposed against this — and interestingly alongside fashion and beauty brands which you’d expect — it’s the ‘technology super brands’ doing brand experience really well. The exact brands you think would shy away from a traditional retail presence are sharing their creative artistry and putting the customer experience at the core of their strategy.

Brands like Samsung, Microsoft, and Apple have invested heavily in their experience stores in prime retail sites. These stores are cool and innovative — mixing retail and leisure — showcasing full product suites, curating ambiance with luxury lounges, and most importantly ‘talent’. Those people who work on the shop floor, greet your customers, represent your brand and product portfolio every day and who drive sale through your product by creating interactions that are rewarding for everyone.

It was recently reported in The Times that Amazon, once deemed as fully responsible for the demise of the high street, is discreetly building a team of British property experts amid speculation that it will expand its physical presence. So, if the most successful online business, whose Amazon Go and Whole Foods brands are examples of physical retail, believes in bricks and mortar as part of their commercial strategy, then surely everyone else must?

It becomes too easy to believe the self-fulfilling prophecy that online shopping is perfect, and the high street is a busted flush. So, the moral of this story? Brands can spend as much money as they like creating extraordinary marketing artistry, but at some point this has to live in the real world, with real brand advocates in-store, selling your products, making the tills ring, and giving the customer an experience worth coming back for and spreading the word. People are never going to stop shopping on the high street; It’s just the way and where they are doing it that has changed. Retail, as an industry, is vital to the global economy, so as we enter a new era of brick and mortar retailing, my advice to brands is: Always let consumers ‘live’ the experience and feel your brand.

To read the full article please visit Branding Mag.

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Can collaborative retail save our high streets? Consumers urge independent retailers to merge to survive

PCR Blog actual

New research from Gekko has revealed that 73% of UK consumers think independent retailers should collaborate.

The ‘Collaborative Retail’ report features comments from over 2,000 UK adults, and has found that many believe independent retailers should “think creatively and work together” to avoid going to the wall and revitalise beleaguered high streets.

In the report, nearly three quarters said they think independent retailers should collaborate to come up with innovate ideas like sharing shop space and marketing costs, cutting down on their individual overheads. Most popular ideas for shop collaborations included independent shoe and clothing retailers, favoured by 71% of consumers, followed by book shops and cafes 68% and bakeries and greengrocers 65%.

Top reasons given by consumers for suggesting collaborations are supporting the high street (64%), supporting local businesses (63%), choice (56%), convenience (52%) and an enhanced shopping experience (48%).

Alongside collaborations, nearly 90% of consumers thought it was important large national retail brands roll out their new store designs and concepts to regions other than just the major high street destinations. Over 50% said they would visit their local high street more if brands did this.

Nearly three quarters (70%) of consumers said they were concerned about the impact of online sales on the high street and the local economy, but felt that the high street still had a major role to play with benefits such as ‘try before you buy’ (62%), browsing and leisure (55%), buy and takeaway (51%) and the opportunity to visit multiple shops (40%).

“We cannot just sit back and watch our high streets continue to degrade. Our research clearly shows that UK consumers are worried about the future of the high street and the impact its demise will have on their communities. They would love to see more independent retail collaborations and believe this is a very exciting way to inject life back into the high street and it does make sense,” commented Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko.

“However, this approach to retail requires new and imaginative ideas from Government that support the legal and financial infrastructure of such initiatives. Our high streets do have a lot to offer so Government and retailers need to work together to make it an enticing proposition and lure people back.”

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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It’s not just retail; it’s M&S retail

The Drum MS Blog

The UK is historically a nation of shoppers, which more often than not puts it in the top five markets for many global brands. Right now, however the economy is tough, and retail is hurting.

With so many retail brand names disappearing from the high street, reducing choice and damaging local communities or shopping districts, the retailers that remain are struggling to survive.

Marks and Spencer, founded in 1884, is a brand unique to the UK, with no global footprint. It serves a niche market of 63 million residents, many of whom have lived with it their entire life. But it’s been well documented that the chain has struggled to connect with a younger audience, and by trying to do so has started to lose its appeal to its core audience.

By trying to be something for everyone, it’s starting to mean nothing to anyone.

One of the main issues with M&S is the fact that it’s a brand with no subsidiaries, and it doesn’t sell any third party products across fashion, homeware, and furniture, with only a few exceptions in the cosmetic and food categories. That makes it very different to some of the brands it competes with, like H&M Group – who have a broad global audience to speak to across 62 counties. Its many brands include H&M, H&M Home, Arket, COS, Weekend, Cheap Monday, Monki, and Other Stories. With approximately 4,500 doors and eight clearly defined brands, H&M Group meets the needs of so many generations and demographics in a way that M&S can’t.

A public breakup

With falling sales and decline across all categories except food which registered like-for-like sales uplift 0.9% with its latest half year results, is there any chance for M&S to refresh its brand to appeal to the many in a progressive nation like the UK?

I don’t think so: it’s almost like an “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of breakup.

The change has already begun. 47 stores have disappeared and the retailer is still looking to close 100 stores by 2022, but with 1,035 UK stores, that still leaves a lot of square footage. The current UK turnover figures of £9.4bn demonstrate that the brand isn’t doing too badly against others who are teetering on the brink of collapse, but it’s losing its focus by desperately chasing growth which isn’t there and, in the process, stifling creativity.

So forget the gimmicks like the M&S Little Shop (those collectable mini grocery items made from non-biodegradable material). This was a bit of a PR disaster, especially when you consider that for many the ethics of fast retail are a major concern. Shoppers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact certain industries make with fashion, for example, accounting for around 10% of total carbon emissions and a significant percentage of total water consumption.

M&S do have their Plan A sustainability programme, but does it do enough to communicate it? I don’t believe so and think M&S could be speaking to so many who are keen to see a retailer change and pioneer green retail for all.

Fixing the brand

Aside from missing a trick on environmental initiatives, it also lags behind other retailers on its feelgood factor. Its in-store experience is lacking, and its approach to retail will never compliment a great advertising campaign.

But one of the simplest forms of enhanced experience starts with staff; M&S have the benefit of loyal and customer centric staff so why not make them your ambassadors to create that experience? Perhaps ditch the uniform and in the process possibly save yourself a lot of money. Dress your staff in your clothes and update it seasonally. The outlay would be less, and your team immediately become the advocates of your brand.

Collaborate with a brand and start a conversation with someone new. Find the yin to your yang and be realistic – no one really wants to wear M&S trainers! Find a complementary brand for a category or create a collection that people really want to chase and will desire.

The current model is clearly not working – but hold on, it’s still making a handsome turnover, employing 81,000 staff and achieving a profit, so what’s the problem? Are the reports self-fulfilling in that they only serve to change perceptions in the consumers mind?

Regardless, the growth for brands like M&S is limited unless they can create a seismic shift in appeal to a younger or more affluent audience which starts with the experience a consumer feels from the brand.

 

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Does black Friday give consumers a real bargain?

Blog

When Black Friday began to be embraced by marketers in 2013, initial efforts focused on instore, one-day only events. Since then, there are far fewer reports of hordes of shoppers breaking down doors and a greater effort to create multi-day, omnichannel campaigns.

This year was predicted to have a strong showing. The CBI reported that sales volume is expected to increase and the Centre for Retail Research expected UK shoppers to increase their spend by 3.4% compared to last year, up to £2.53bn. Initial data shows that those expectations are being met: at its busiest, Barclaycard reported seeing 1,184 transactions per second during Black Friday itself.

As part of our work at Gekko, we monitor how retailers approach and execute promotions like this to better understand and advise on the market. Ahead of Black Friday 2019 we saw that far from being a single day event almost everyone started their campaigns at the start of the week, and peaked with a push over the Black Friday weekend with limited additional discounts and promotions.

We closely monitored the Black Friday pricing strategies across eight different retailers in the UK and Ireland, recording the items and prices offered over the week before Black Friday. Across those retailers, we saw a big launch at the start of the week, an increasing number of items being put on offer as the week progressed, then a drop in availability as particular deals went out of stock.

Tracked Black Friday discounted products 2019

Blog 1

Discounting on the day itself didn’t prove to be particularly significant. Of the 2909 items we tracked that were available to purchase on Tuesday 26th and still available at the end of the week, just 321 – 11% – were cheaper on Black Friday. 10% were cheaper than on the Wednesday, and just 6% were cheaper than on the night before. In the main, shoppers looking for a bargain could have purchased at any time during the week and would have been unlikely to see their purchases cheaper later on regardless of the store.

Of those 321 tracked discounts, TVs, laptops, and mobile phones made up almost half of the additional discounting, with scattered flash pricing on hot items like AirPods making up much of the rest.

Product categories of items cheaper on Black Friday than earlier in the week, 2019

Blog 2

But don’t be fooled by the data here. Although 23% of the extra discounts were on TVs, only 16% of all TVs we tracked were cheapest on Black Friday itself. For everything else, the Black Friday price was the same price as the rest of the week. And though we saw some variation on prices for specific items from retailer to retailer throughout the week, Black Friday is so sensitive that prices were very similar if not identical as retailers ramped up their price matching.

Although we expect data released and compiled over the next week to show that online took a bigger proportion of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday spend this year, a battle on price isn’t the only option open to brands and retailers. This year we saw an increased push of AR product viewing by both Amazon and Currys PC World, and our online analysis showed brands partnering with retailers so that consumers could talk to a brand ambassador remotely. This is an attempt to mimic the experiential marketing that we have seen work so well in-store, and it’ll be fascinating to see how this develops in future.

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Will collaborative retail save our high streets?

Bitesize blog

Independent retailers should think creatively and work together to avoid going to the wall and revitalise beleaguered high streets, according to a new report ‘Collaborative Retail’ commissioned by retail marketing experts, Gekko.

In the report, which interviewed 2,000 UK adults*, nearly three quarters (73%) said they think independent retailers should collaborate to come up with innovate ideas like sharing shop space and marketing costs, cutting down on their individual overheads. Most popular ideas for shop collaborations included independent shoe and clothing retailers, favoured by 71% of consumers, followed by book shops and cafes 68% and bakeries and greengrocers 65%.

Top reasons given by consumers for suggesting collaborations are supporting the High Street 64%, supporting local businesses 63%, choice 56%, convenience 52% and an enhanced shopping experience 48%.

Alongside collaborations nearly 90% of consumers thought it was important large national retail brands roll out their new store designs and concepts to regions other than just the major high street destinations. Over fifty per cent (56%) said they would visit their local high street more if brands did this.

Nearly three quarters (70%) of consumers said they were concerned about the impact of online sales on the High Street and the local economy, but felt that the high street still had a major role to play with benefits such as ‘try before you buy’ 62%, browsing and leisure 55%, buy and takeaway 51% and the opportunity to visit multiple shops 40%.

Daniel Todaro, Managing Director of Gekko, comments: “We cannot just sit back and watch our high streets continue to degrade. Our research clearly shows that UK consumers are worried about the future of the high street and the impact its demise will have on their communities. They would love to see more independent retail collaborations and believe this is a very exciting way to inject life back into the high street and it does make sense.  However, this approach to retail requires new and imaginative ideas from Government that support the legal and financial infrastructure of such initiatives. Our high streets do have a lot to offer so Government and retailers need to work together to make it an enticing proposition and lure people back.”

To read the full article please visit IPM Bitesize.

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Could collaborative retail save our high streets? Independent retailers should merge to avoid closure

The Drum Blog

The Collaborative Retail report from Gekko looks at how independent retailers can think more innovately to avoid struggling on the high street.

The survey has revealed that independent retailers should think more creatively and work together to avoid going bust.

The report interviewed 2,000 UK adults, with nearly three quarters (73%) admitting that they thought independent retailers should collaborate to come up with innovate ideas like sharing shop space and marketing costs ad cutting down on their individual overheads.

Independent shoe and clothing retailers were among the most popular types of shops for collaborations (favoured by 71% of consumers), followed by book shops and cafes (68%) and bakeries and greengrocers (65%).

Reasons for these collaborations included consumers wanting to support the high street (64%), wanting to support local businesses (63%), by choice (56%), convenience (52%) and an enhanced shopping experience (48%).

Alongside these collaborations, nearly 90% of consumers thought it was important that large national retail brands renovated their store designs and opened up concepts in new regions rather than just in major high street destinations. Over fifty per cent (56%) said they would visit their local high street more if brands did this.

Nearly three quarters (70%) of consumers said they were concerned about the impact of online sales on the high street and the local economy, but felt that the high street still had a major role to play such as it meant consumers could try items before they buy (62%), browse leisurely (55%), buy an item and take it home immediately (51%) and visit multiple shops in one go (40%).

Daniel Todaro, MD at Gekko, said: “We cannot just sit back and watch our high streets continue to degrade. Our research clearly shows that UK consumers are worried about the future of the high street and the impact its demise will have on their communities.

“They would love to see more independent retail collaborations and believe this is a very exciting way to inject life back into the high street and it does make sense. However, this approach to retail requires new and imaginative ideas from Government that support the legal and financial infrastructure of such initiatives. Our high streets do have a lot to offer so Government and retailers need to work together to make it an enticing proposition and lure people back.”

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Click and Regret: How physical retail can encourage more mindful purchases

PCR BLOG

Since it really took off in 2014, the success of Black Friday in the UK has very much focused on bricks and mortar retail, with only 33% of all Black Friday sales being transacted online. Fast forward four years and in 2018
online sales accounted for 61% of all Black Friday sales, increasing on average 8% year-on-year. The focus for retailers to take an omnichannel approach, in this time-dependent shopping event, is obvious for those looking to make Black Friday a success. The need for an effective online solution that entices customers to make immediate decisions, convincing consumers that they ‘need’ a certain item, is part of the strategy some adopt and execute very effectively. Interestingly, there are no recorded figures for all those items returned and refunded immediately after the event, impacting on the December Christmas trading figures.

To pre-empt the online frenzy that has now become Black Friday, in October, my agency Gekko conducted research to ascertain shopper motivations towards online spending and in particular the immediate fix online shopping offers, which usually results in a euphoric retail therapy high leading – for some – to immediate regret and guilt. Not surprisingly for me, it revealed the shocking waste now involved with online shopping. According to the survey, an estimated £641 million is the astonishing figure consumers are wasting online every year buying goods they don’t want and which they subsequently fail to return.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted by One Poll on behalf of Gekko reveals that 27% of respondents (equating to 12.4 million UK adults) order goods online they regret buying but never get round to returning. The average amount wasted every year is £51.90 per person equating to £641 million overall. Nearly a third of UK adults (31%) also confess to being lured into buying items they don’t want or need and 70% regularly regret buying things online so send them back.

Despite people seemingly unable to resist the temptation of spending money online, nearly half felt that the ease of shopping online fuels extensive shopping habits, and 43% said they also spend more money online than they originally intended.

Although internet shopping is meant to be time efficient, a whopping 65% said they spent more time shopping online than they expected because there’s too much choice, they want to hunt for the best prices (54%) and they feel compelled to shop around (34%).

Now that all sounds great and from a retailer’s perspective makes online retailing seem the only strategy. However, respondents also claim to be concerned about the environmental impact of online shopping with 75% worried about the excessive use of packaging and single use plastics. Meanwhile, 70% said they were concerned about the societal impact on the high street and local economy of increasing online shopping.

The moral dilemma online shopping creates for many, and not just on Black Friday, is multi-layered. There’s the environmental impact of all that unnecessary transport, packaging and a notorious gig economy verses the speed of delivery, and the convenience that online shopping offers, particularly for those with busy lives.

The media exposure Extinction Rebellion have successfully achieved in raising the issues surrounding the environment will only become more prevalent with consumers who will consciously begin to favour brands, manufacturers and retailers that adopt sustainable measures, from the basic recyclable packaging to carbon neutral manufacturing and distribution. This is truer of younger generations who might choose to invest, not necessarily spend, their budget more sparingly with brands that speak to them. Many invest in brands that resonate with the zeitgeist rather than profit at the expense of the planet, and demonstrate a social conscience in manufacturing, the environment, sustainability and how they give back a proportion of their vast profits to society.

Realistically though, in the case of ‘considered’ purchases such as CE and IT, physical retail is the only place that offers consumers an experience the reflects the significance of the budget a consumer wishes to spend. Presence in-store, as measured by Kantar, proved that whilst ranging in retail may deliver an average reach due to it being index linked to footfall, its impact when experienced is effective as the last chance to stand out against competition in the path to purchase. Combine this with a clear environmental policy, articulate staff in a welcoming environment and the experience is heightened, enabling a more conducive manner to close a sale and perhaps increase average basket values through selling up through a range or making a connection sale.

It’s also interesting to note that for brand loyal consumers, they make purchasing decisions confidently and quickly in favour of their preferred brand, however to drive consideration for less well known or experienced brands, the need to gain presence in-store is essential for success. During Black Friday, clever and coherent placement of products, coupled with messaging to increase visibility, is essential to catch the eye of consumers and close those Black Friday sales in-store that online may never, or be less able to, achieve. Despite online shopping increasing year-on-year, the research shows the 62% of consumers still love shopping in physical stores.

What is clear from this research is that online shopping can be a false economy. Although in theory we can return the goods we buy, many of us are too busy to bother, so what starts as convenience soon becomes costly and inconvenient. This results in unwanted goods cluttering cupboards, gathering dust in wardrobes or heading for landfill at an alarming rate. Despite our high street suffering, many people still enjoying the benefits of physical retail, to “try before you buy”, for excellent customer service and also the immediate purchasing experience. People should be more mindful before they click, and get out and support their local businesses as well as helping the environment and their pockets.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

Show review: impressive tech from IFA 2019

PCR IFA blog

Wow, what another great IFA. In its 59th year, the show exceed last year’s 1,800+ exhibitors and 244,000+ attendees and continued to be cemented in the calendar as the leading showcase of the technology industry for trade and consumers.

The consumer goods market in Europe is significant and for the first half of 2019 was worth €450bn, down 2% and forecasted to remain flat in the second half at €1.011tn. However, the stats still define Europe as the second largest technology market with a 25% share, behind China at 27% with North America third with a 19% share.

The speed of change in product innovation, and the increase in channels to sell these products in line with customer needs, is not losing pace. While there was no great fanfare of a new technology announcement, what was evident was how innovation and invention are evolving into the mainstream. This included the next generation of Web Operating Systems, 5G devices and AI developments, all designed to achieve a more proactive ecosystem which enables all devices and appliances in the home to be connected more efficiently.

One of the key focuses this year more than ever was the prevalence of voice control / AI controlled products. Almost every brand and category has either one or both of the two leading voice assistants becoming inbuilt and connected, increasing the smart home ecosystem across almost every device, MDA and wearable.

The adoption of AI amongst all age groups is on the increase with 31% of millennials owning three or more connected devices and rapidly increasing across all generations as ‘our’ trust increases in the technology and privacy fears are addressed through tougher regulatory measures. Apparently it would take you on average 73 days to read all the Ts & Cs you’ve signed up for online and even then we don’t have a clue what we’ve agreed to. Tougher regulation is essential to protect our data and how brands use the data we willingly offer up.

The smart home market is growing, but for many, the smartphone is still key when controlling smart home elements. However, when looking at energy and lighting controls, 32% use a smart speaker. Whilst 15% of UK consumers say it is “essential” for new smart home devices to connect with a smart speaker/ home hub, 32% say “I would be open to trying shopping via voice and a smart speaker”, whereas only 20% say “shopping by voice with a smart speaker would be much more convenient than the ways I shop currently”.

JBL who have shipped over 100 million speakers globally and launched the #100mSmiles campaign made clear their intentions to dominate by understanding the market better than many, having identified that 70% of consumers would like an audio device with the possibility to control their environment to create the right ambience while listening to music. They also had a nod with ‘green’ credentials in the smart device category, which may be a first, launching the Flip 5 Ocean & Forest, a connected speaker made from 90% recycled plastic.

LG were really rather forward thinking at this year’s IFA Future Talk and identified the ‘silver generation’ as a potential growth area for technology, however it accepts that trust within this generation is a barrier. It also focused on the need for simplicity, which is self-evident from products that were once considered cutting edge and are now defunct. Thinking about how difficult it was to program a VCR. It was a challenge and now this challenge is eradicated because we just talk to the devices to fulfil the same function.

The connected market is on the increase, no question and this extends to white goods with 11.4% of all MDA’s sold in Western Europe being connected, up from 4.8% in the same period back in 2016. When you consider that in Q4 2018 connected MDAs in Asia Pacific accounted for 26.5% of all MDAs sold, there is still growth opportunities for brands and retailers in the European market.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G and this was also evident at IFA 2019, and while autonomous vehicles will rely on the technology in the future, more immediately 5G is a transformative technology for the home. As it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting appliances, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look around your home. There’s already numerous appliances that rely on a strong wireless connection to work, from virtual assistants to laptops – and without it everything comes to a halt. 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, nicely and simply. From rural areas where broadband speeds are poor to urban areas where speeds can suffer from congestion; 5G will enhance the possibilities for a smarter home, streets, towns and cities.

Autonomous vehicles were more evident this year and as we draw closer to the reality that we may get driven rather than drive ourselves, acceptance is increasing. In essence cars will become more than a means to get from A to B, enabling the passenger to do more. An interesting take on this reality, again by LG, was asking what are we going to do with our time whilst being transported? Well LG want to entertain you by making that now redundant windscreen become a TV screen that you can cast to and watch, work, play or shop. Imagine being driven autonomously and be surrounded by the convenience of technology that enables you to carry on as you would do at home or in the office. The safety concerns are evident as highlighted by Tyron Louw, Research Fellow at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds: “Nobody knows for sure how the world will look in five years, yet we are all under pressure to prepare for that future. Driverless cars merge two imperfect systems – humans and automation – to anticipate new types of road accidents.”

However, with the advent of 5G, autonomous vehicles on our streets, not just in major cities, is certainly not fantasy and definitely reality within the next decade.

The consensus at SHIFT, the two-day convention at IFA Berlin exploring the Future of Mobility was clear: “Electric vehicles will be a key part of the future of mobility, but they are not the only solution. Instead, smart cities and autonomous vehicles will be key components of our “mobility-as-a-service” future, where cars are just one component of a broad mix of transport modes that we are using.

“While there was no doubt among participants that autonomous vehicles would soon become reality, they were split on how this would affect the world’s car culture.”

Other trends away from true innovation saw many brands tapping into the increasing esports market. Acer launched Planet9, an open gaming community platform and others have negotiated tenuous link ups such as Beko with League of Legends and Samsung with Fortnite. All no doubt designed with a view to ride the increasing esports wave and appeal to Millennials and Generations Z and Alpha. The global market for gaming hardware is on the rise as a result of its appeal and new ease of access assisting in a forecasted 14% increase in 2019 with an estimated value of €12.4bn.

Whilst IFA is all about innovation and showcasing the future, I must admit I do enjoy a bit of nostalgia and my favourite throwback product came from Sony with the Walkman 40th Anniversary edition. A welcome reminder from Sony on how they as the innovators once changed how we listened on the move and created a category in the process that everybody copied and developed to be better or worse depending on your opinion.

IFA is not just about showcasing technology, it’s also about defining how we as human beings could or will live better lives through the adoption and acceptance of innovation. Long may IFA continue to enable and encourage the creativity of brands to define the technology of the future.

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