Focus on Streamlining the In-Store Experience for Customers to Return

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Marks & Spencer (M&S) once again is in the news and is poised to close 60 poor-performing stores and increase its food presence due to falling fashion revenues and profit. Let’s not forget, this retailer has never placed itself as a high-fashion retailer, but one with a broad appeal for which it must cater. David Gandy, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, and the latest conscript Alexa Chung, who is yet to be measured for success, are fine brand ambassadors which have attracted new customers to the store — at least once. Therein lies the issue: let’s be honest here, ambassadors are not the problem and in most cases, depending on your taste, the fashion isn’t that bad or of poor quality either — it’s the experience.

Walk into an M&S and you’re greeted with a confused retail environment akin to a Poundland. There is harsh, bright lighting that bounces off the laminate flooring and awful graphics are festooned across the store. Images of middle-aged men in casual slacks will not make me go deeper into the M&S environment if that’s what I’m greeted with immediately on entry.

The fashion is laid out in a manner that speaks to no one in particular, big and small sizes, man-made and natural fibres, knits, pleats, and high neck lines share rails with garments for a totally different and diverse customer. There is no differentiation between ages and sizing in its merchandising, making it harder for shoppers to buy on impulse and instead expecting you to ‘browse’.

As a nation of shoppers we like to browse, but only for certain items. Or on the rare occasion, we see an item in the window and nip it to buy it there and then. At this point we may be enticed by the environment to stay a bit longer, browse, and become a true customer encouraged to visit again. Unfortunately, M&S has little linger appeal due to its stark and clumsy environment and merchandising, which doesn’t even reflect the 2016 Christmas campaign with Mrs. Clause. The message of a Christmas filled with love is immediately diminished on entering into store.

The solution? Bring them in with great food and great ambassadors to entice them deeper into a store with defined zones and a warmer, friendlier environment that makes customers feel comfortable rather than awkward. Differentiate soft mixed with hard zones, and group fashion by age, audience, and size so you know where you are in the store. Stop arranging shoes on shelves like tins of baked beans, and merchandising must-have fashion items next to shortbread and lavender draw liners.

The traditional M&S shopper has changed, while the new shoppers M&S attract through endorsement and ATL are put off by the environment. It’s imperative that every retailer makes their customer experience appealing, clearly defining where in the store they should be, and not approaching fashion retail as a one-size-fits-all.

Shoppers are intelligent and if you want customers to part with their hard-earned cash, you need to make it appealing, appropriate, and rewarding to your audience. Does anyone you know brag about the ‘joy’ of shopping in M&S due to its in-store experience or similarly about the items they bought? I suspect very few do, therefore by changing perceptions and carrying your ATL message TTL via social and the retail space may facilitate the love M&S desires as a fashion retailer.

 

Read more at: http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2016/12/05/focus-on-streamlining-the-in-store-experience-for-customers-to-return/

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Gekko named Employer of the Year 2016

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Gekko are delighted to have been named Employer of the Year at the 2016 Amazon Growing Business Awards. Following a public vote Gekko was chosen as this year’s top employer, beating some tough competition for the top spot.

Gekko would like to thank everyone who cast their vote for us! We are humbled and thankful for your support!

For a full list of winners, click here

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All I want for Christmas…

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Whoop, whoop it’s almost Christmas, and if you haven’t already considered what you’ll be ranging, here is some inspiration to convert shoppers into valuable customers.

Secretly, we love to buy for ourselves when shopping for presents. The truth is out there, it’s no secret, with everyone on average spending £84 on themselves when Christmas shopping – that’s an accessory like a pair of headphones or an SDA to kick-start that New Year’s resolution in healthy eating.

The most popular Christmas gifts are entertainment-based, with 63 per cent choosing these over clothes, food and drink, spending an average of £489.04 on approximately 14.8 gifts for 8.3 people – that third of a person only needs something small.

Appealing

Now, with an identified average spend per person of £61 (in addition to the previously mentioned £84), what do you range that meets that price point? Not much, I’m guessing, thus increasing the importance in making sure that those items that fall within this price point are clearly visible and appealing to shoppers in your store.

New technology is still available to buy, think Ring’s video doorbell, which also won the Editor’s Choice category at this year’s T3 Awards. At £159, its innovation and functionality can be justified by ease of installation and potential as a household gift. Speaking of innovation, think Jabra’s range of wireless headphones, leading the way in the ‘hearables’ category, merging high-quality audio increasing through the range with fitness tracking via your ears.

Equally, on the back of the phenomenally successful and much discussed The Great British Bake-Off, there’s an SDA at a range of prices that every fan of the show desires to grace their kitchen or make them a better baker. These include the Kenwood mini choppers, AEG blenders and the KitchenAid hand mixer or, if you’re really generous, the Artisan stand mixer and Magimix 5200XL food processor. With SDAs helping the 41 per cent of Brits cooking from scratch, the opportunity to develop your sales, across the SDA category, can be linked to a gift purchase.

With two-in-five shoppers stumped on what to buy their friends and family, they can be swayed as 68 per cent buy based on deals and 62 per cent on convenience. By highlighting the deal, its USP and suggested target audience, closing a sale among the 40 per cent who are undecided could be simpler than you thought.

Moving up the generosity scale, a premium audio device is the perfect gift for any audiophile or music-loving household. Consider an expert in the audio category, such as Naim – also a T3 winner. The Mu-so wireless speaker combines stylish design with unrivalled sound quality filling your home with your favourite tunes compatible with all the popular streaming services – very appropriate for the Christmas period.

With premium audio sales growing by 22 per cent year on year, it’s a great opportunity to increase your average basket value. Perhaps use a showroom style approach, allowing customers to see the speakers in a living room setting, perhaps even syncing their phones to the speaker to test the wireless connectivity. Creating some in-store theatre is key to selling these premium items.

Addressing those entertainment shoppers, the huge media coverage enjoyed by the exciting Virtual Reality category – expected to exceed $2 billion globally this year – means it could be the time to start stocking a VR or AR proposition within your line up. The eagerly anticipated PlayStation VR is an accessory for the vastly popular PS4, of which there are over 1.5 million in homes across the UK. This is due to launch on October 13 and expected to RRP at £349.

Exciting

Now, this may be more than the average spend, but it’s an exciting, innovative product with a forecasted 50 games available by the end of the year, with highlights such as Batman Arkham VR and EVE: Valkyrie. It’s going to be huge and a welcome gift for any PS4 user or their family. If this is beyond your ranging, think Google Cardboard. With an RRP of £15 and thousands of available apps, it’s the ideal stocking filler for anyone of any age with any brand of smartphone. With Sky and Freeview experimenting with VR as well, entertainment platforms are taking the technology mainstream.

Take some comfort in knowing that only 14 per cent of shoppers surveyed return an electronic gift. If sold correctly, return rates should be negligible within your store especially if you’ve trained your staff. Remember ranging is one thing, but if your team doesn’t know what you range, what your core Christmas items are, how to sell these correctly to the right customer by identifying what they want and matching USPs and how to close a sale, there’s no guarantee of success.

Perhaps consider incentivising your staff to attach your lower-priced items to higher-priced transactions, assisting an increase to your average basket value.

Santa Baby may be coming down the chimney with some great tech, if you get your ranging and training right.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/all-i-want-for-christmas/

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High street sales are booming, say new retail figures

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Recent figures from the Office of National Statistic suggest high street retail is booming this autumn, with retail sales up 7.4% year on year in October. With an increase of 1.9% over September, this October saw the highest rate of sales growth since April 2002. Contrary to many who predicted an economic slump after the Brexit vote, and while the UK remains in Europe, retail appears to be in a good place leading up to the most important sales periods of the year: Black Friday and the Christmas Peak.

More good news for retailers is the increasing amount spent in high street stores, with consumers spending 6.6% more in October 2016 compared with last year, and up 2.1% on September. Retailers will be hoping this upward trend continues, increasing consumer spending during the peak sales period. The average weekly spend in October was £7.7 billion, an increase of £500 million year on year, clearly showing consumer confidence in the UK economy has not diminished despite warnings. Furthermore average retail prices fell 0.7% in October year on year, demonstrating how high street competition is dampening the effect of the decreased value of Sterling. Some have intimated that spending may be spiralling out of control, creating the bubble which forced the previous recession. However the lessons learned from back then may be applied.

The ONS report has even more good news for department stores and consumer electronics brands. The report found that 43% of retail sales in October 2016 were in non-food stores, encompassing department stores and household goods. Sales volume for non-retail stores was up 2.8% year on year, highlighting the growing consumer confidence in buying household goods. These figures are perhaps inflated by the weak Sterling which has increased international spending in particular on luxury goods, making that Hermes bag a steal in comparison to the price back home in its native France.

Overall, the ONS report suggests shoppers are ready to spend this Christmas. Of course, brands should not take these figures for granted, as in a highly competitive marketplace it’s still vitally important for brands to make an impact in store and be seen. Millions have been spent by retailers on this season’s Christmas adverts; they are now reliant on the products and brands they range to entice and convert shoppers into customers.

In order to successfully achieve this, all brands should be considering their retail execution at this busy time, especially focusing on education, merchandising and promotion to ‘wow’ shoppers looking for the perfect Christmas gift for themselves or another.

 

Read more at: http://www.innovativeelectricalretailing.co.uk/index.php/high-street-sales-are-booming-say-new-retail-figures/

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Smart staff for a smart sale

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The smart home has arrived, the Internet of Things is gradually making its way into everything from kitchen appliances to thermostats, and you’ll soon be able to control most things in your house from your phone.

The global market for smart-home appliances is expected to be worth $38.35 billion (£28.9bn) by 2020, and is only expected to grow further as our homes become more and more ‘connected’.

In the UK, sales of smart-home technology have increased by 81 per cent year on year, according to John Lewis. Although 66 per cent of UK consumers agree that the smart home is an appealing concept, many retailers are experiencing problems when trying to train their staff to sell this category, which presents some major challenges.

Despite technologically aware customers showing interest, there is still a lower level of demand for smart-home products over conventional ones, meaning that sales staff have limited opportunities to talk ‘smart home’. In some cases, this leads to apathy when it comes to investing time into training. This is not helped by the fact that many staff still believe that this type of technology is the future rather than the present.

It is critical that sales staff understand that they need to educate themselves and develop an interest in this emerging category.

As predicted, virtually all products will become connected over the coming years, so any purchase of a smart product is a safe bet for the future. With 3,427 smart products on the market (from 439 brands) – an increase of 61 per cent – the market is growing.

Another major challenge for retailers is that many consumers struggle to understand the concept of the smart home and its benefits. A quarter of UK consumers cite a ‘lack of knowledge’ as their main reason for not purchasing a smart-home product. Many customers, once given an explanation, understand how the smart home works, but still struggle to see how it will improve or enrich their lifestyle.

Staff need to be trained on how to sell the benefits of the smart home, giving shoppers some context as to how the technology may fit into their lives. A lack of hands-on experience with smart-home products means it is hard for store staff to explain the real-life uses for this technology. It’s no coincidence that higher sales come from those staff that own the product, as they are able to give practical examples of how the connected home has benefited them.

To overcome these barriers, it is perhaps helpful for retailers to move away from selling the ‘technology’ itself and instead outline for customers how the tech interacts with their lifestyle and delivers real, tangible benefits.

Sales personnel should ask more pertinent questions of the customer to establish their wants and needs in order to demonstrate the relevant connected-home product that will enhance and improve their life.

Currently, sales colleagues tend to focus too much on the broadband internet connection, app or other technology involved, which for many shoppers, while essential to know, is still a baffling science and serves to create unnecessary confusion.

A change in approach is vital for retailers to sell the smart home – focus on the benefits rather than the technology itself. Early adopters already understand the technology, but if these products are going to become truly mass-market, it is necessary to make the category simple and relevant to every consumer.

The smart-home landscape is changing as it becomes more sophisticated and reliable. More products will be smart-enabled, as demonstrated by SoftBank with its recent purchase of semiconductor IP company Arm Holdings.

IFA 2016 will without doubt exhibit significantly more innovation from more brands for the smart category. It’s the brave that will survive in this ever-changing market.

 

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/smart-staff-for-a-smart-sale/

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The ‘C’ word

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Now, your grandmother may not like it, but connected viewing and content are changing the way we watch entertainment, and changing the shape of traditional broadcasting as we know it.

We, as consumers, like to time-shift our TV viewing. No, not like the famous Quantum Leap, but watching what we want when it’s convenient for us to do so.

In May, 13.7 per cent of all TV was watched time-shifted via a catch-up service, up from 6.9 per cent in 2010. This percentage will most certainly continue to grow as more consumers make use of connected services.

With the increase of streaming options and greater bandwidth from our broadband providers, there are many options for consumers to watch their favourite shows that don’t involve a TV, not forgetting very smart services like Freeview Play and Sky Q.

We love streaming on the go and away from the traditional living room setting, with 32 per cent of total viewing time being done through streaming on a device other than a TV. That’s 11,221,204 hours a week in the UK.

We will stream anything it would seem, with four episodes of EastEnders topping a recent catch-up list. What we seem to avoid watching on catch-up and make an effort with is appointment TV, for example live sporting events, which meant sport did not break the top 50 of time-shifted programming. Rather, sports topped the live streaming list, with consumers looking to watch the match with everyone else rather than catch up later.

On top of live streaming and catch-up services, some smart TVs and streaming devices also give easy access to TV and film streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Quality productions such as Orange is the New Black, which costs nearly $4 million an episode to produce, and House of Cards, costing slightly more at $4.5m, have meant that paying to stream is an acceptable proposition. Netflix will spend $5 billion on programming in 2016 – this is on a par with traditional broadcasters such as Fox Networks, and higher than CBS.

Quality, and the ability to be more risqué, is paying off for the non-traditional content producers. They are new, credible and serious players, mixing up the way we consume drama, and now also factual TV.

With Netflix boasting 81 million subscribers in its quarterly earnings report, it’s easy to understand how connected content and the ability to view via multiple devices is again changing the face of broadcasting and how we consume TV. With the BBC license coming in at an exceptionally good value, £145.50 a year, it’s a lot of high-quality media on many platforms to even consider it expensive. But, with Netflix averaging £89.88 and Amazon Prime £79 a year, it’s got tough competition from all angles, Government included.

Grandma might be happy with her old terrestrial channels, but many consumers will be looking to access all this amazing content by upgrading to a new smart TV or other connected device. For your store, connected services are the perfect USP to sell these new products – smart TVs are rapidly becoming the base level for the category, much like HD is now. What’s important is reassuring consumers that these services will enhance their viewing experience, not hinder it with difficult-to-use software or hidden charges.

Have a smart TV set up in your store with a live aerial feed and internet connection ready for your staff to demo. Let interested shoppers interact and play with the TV, letting them explore the features and benefits of streaming and catch-up services, demonstrating their ease of use and accessibility to free terrestrial catch up or paid for content. With GfK estimating that over five million 4K TVs will be sold in the UK by the end of 2017, smart TV is complementing UHD in equal measure.

With demand services making up four per cent of TV viewing for all ages, and more than doubling to 8.7 per cent among the same 16 to 24 age group, it’s understandable that Amazon can afford to spend $4m per episode on The Grand Tour, and Netflix’s market capitalisation is now $42.3 billion.

If you aren’t offering streaming devices and content cards like Google Play, you aren’t giving your customers, of all ages, what they want and are potentially missing out on an opportunity to increase your margin.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/the-c-word/

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Smoothie operator

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With healthy eating at an all-time high, the market for juice extractors and other food prep gadgets has steadily been growing over the past few years.

A recent study by Mintel found that now 41 percent of Brits are cooking from scratch every day, with consumers looking to control their diets and improve their health.

Retailers need to cater to their audience, ranging a good selection of products within the category, with the ability to sell them effectively, as sales are only going to grow.

Now a mainstay of the health food appliance category, sales of low-fat fryers, for example, are continuing to increase, growing by 12 per cent year on year, where traditional deep fat fryers declined by one per cent.

While the fryer category as a whole has grown by eight per cent, two-thirds of this growth is down to healthier fryers alone. With a higher price point averaging at £101 compared with the average £25 for traditional fryers, low-fat fryers are not only a more popular product, but also more profitable for your store.

Likewise, sales of standalone grills have increased by 30 per cent since 2011. The category has seen a jump in popularity as a whole, with 15 per cent of Brits interested in purchasing a grill, compared with only 10 per cent in 2013. Traditional fruit juicers have seen a 35 per cent drop in sales volume since the beginning of 2016. On the other hand, juice extractors (such as the NutriBullet) have grown by 111 per cent and sold nearly one million extra units in the past 12 months.

Healthy

Extractors are taking the market away from juicers because of their health credentials. Whereas juicers only release the sugary juice (sometimes as much as a can of coke), extractors keep the vitamin-filled fruit fibre, creating a healthy smoothie. There are clear health benefits to all of these products, with low-fat fryers and grills cutting fat from everyday cooking, and extractors making smoothies to make it easier to hit that all important five-a-day. However, all of these products are considered purchases, with price points generally higher than their ‘unhealthy’ counterparts. While the health benefits of the products are clear, many consumers will need to be convinced that their new extractor or fryer is value for money.

As such, to make the most of the category, it’s important for your store to explain the financial benefits to shoppers.

A good example is juice extractors – the average price of a medium smoothie (450ml) from a high-street coffee chain is £3.25. Based on the ingredients of this smoothie, making the same thing at home by buying a watermelon, grapes and some strawberries would only cost around £1.35. Using a mid-range extractor, such as the Morphy Richards Easy Blend, it would take only 19 smoothies to recoup the cost of the product.

Based on making one smoothie a day, this would take less than three weeks.

This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the financial benefits of a juice extractor to shoppers, many of whom will already be buying smoothies every day from a local coffee shop. Knowing that they can recoup the cost of the product in as little as three weeks will be a huge factor in their decision to purchase, as the extractor will likely save them a significant amount over time.

For those shoppers who favour convenience over savings, a demonstration could change their attitude to the product. Show them how easy it is to make their smoothie every morning, while simultaneously offering them a sample made right in front of them.

Features

If you’ve decided to demonstrate a juice extractor product in your store, set aside a budget to buy fresh fruit each morning on busy days, especially each weekend. Ensure that your staff are trained to use the product, including food and hygiene training, and are briefed on its unique features.

Position the demo stand prominently, offering passers-by a fresh smoothie and the opportunity to discuss the product with a staff member.

The health SDA category is an excellent one to tap your store into consumer interest and market trends. It also offers a great opportunity to create some theatre in store, demonstrating these fantastic new products with colourful displays that will catch the eye of passing shoppers, as well as those already interested in making a purchase.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/smoothie-operator/

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Brexit and the Tech Channel

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On 23rd June 2016, 17.4 million people in the UK voted to leave the European Union, igniting the Brexit debate and speculation on what happens next. With this in mind, what are the potential implications for tech brands?

With the immediate weakening of the pound to US dollar exchange rate, it has and will continue to have an impact on components that comprise end products, at the detriment of all consumers. Brands including Dell, HP, Cisco and Lenovo have informed their channel partners to expect blanket price increases, including 10 per cent for Dell and HP, and a rumoured 14 per cent from Cisco.

Price increases will impact on what is an increasingly tough market, but to what extent? This is perhaps only the beginning. However, irrespective of the speculation, one thing for certain is that any price increases will certainly not be absorbed by resellers, and will instead be passed onto end users.

Since the Consumer Price Index recorded pre Brexit at -1 to a post Brexit drop of -9, it is clear that Brexit will make trading not only difficult in bricks and mortar retailers, but also a challenge for the entire channel.

The outlook for brands means that it will become harder to sell products at a price which consumers are accustomed to. The harsh reality of Brexit is that consumers will begin to feel the impact on the pound in their pockets.

Compared to other markets where it is likely tech products will be considerably less expensive in relative terms, Brexit will make the UK a challenging market to manage for brands. When John Lewis boss Andy Street states that although changes in Sterling won’t impact prices for this financial year, but that it may next year, it’s pretty much a certainty that it will happen. This is a move that many others retailers will follow in an acceptable, stealth-like manner.

It’s not just about the exchange rate affecting components either – as fuel costs increase, so does the cost of transportation, which in any event will impact pricing further. This could, in particular, affect retailers with an Omnichannel approach and online resellers which will look to recoup delivery charges. As such, the outlook for the channel and consumers is tough.

One thing is definite, the average price index for Tech and CE products will increase, creating a new challenge for sales and marketing teams. Maintaining market share, encouraging end users to refresh products in line with trends and not extending the product lifecycle delaying possible upgrades, will all be a priority.

With margins so tight and the fight for market share getting fierce, the focus on marketing teams to deliver clear strategies which explain these blanket increases and seek to assure end users that there will be no impact on build quality and more importantly innovation, is essential.

It’s inevitable that when you ask consumers to pay more money for your products, the balancing act is meeting the expectations of end users demanding value for money from these same products and ultimately your brand.

Effective use of existing marketing budgets at the point of purchase could be the tool that bridges the price gap to maintain consumer confidence, profitability and market share.

 

Read more at http://www.pcr-online.biz/news/read/the-brexit-vote-and-price-increases-will-make-the-uk-a-challenging-market-for-tech-brands/038513

It’s not too late to take on wearables

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When it comes to wearables, many retailers may lack the knowledge needed to make them a success in their stores. As a developing category that’s creating a lot of interest in the media and among shoppers, expanding the knowledge base of your staff will help to develop it as a mainstay category in your store.   

Firstly, educate your staff on how wearable devices can make a positive impact on a customer’s health and lifestyle. Whether you ask a supplier to assist you with extra training, or run a training session yourself, it’s important for your staff to understand the category. Encourage your staff to use a wearable device themselves, helping them to understand wearables and become brand advocates. Their knowledge will help to improve in-store education and awareness of the category. Make it part of team building by creating store challenges on the number of steps, etc.

With your staff knowledgeable and ready to assist, educate your customers on the same health and lifestyle benefits by giving them an opportunity to see the device in action through a demonstration, using the team dashboard to aid the process.

Arming staff with a device and a synched smartphone will allow them to demonstrate the product’s functionality. Each customer will have a different reason for inquiring about a wearable device, so have your staff training focus on communication skills so they can offer tailored advice to individual shoppers.

If you’re concerned that your customers will not be interested in purchasing a wearable product, having a staff member speak passionately about how a device can help improve a customer’s health and fitness may change their perception of the category. Don’t forget the compatibility factor and ease of use, as all devices sync with almost any make of smartphone.

It’s not too late to consider ranging wearable technology. The category is continuing to grow and won’t be fading anytime soon. Get over your fears, educate your staff and start with a range that offers choice for each user at a price and functionality level that meets their needs.

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/smart-move/

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Smart Move

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The connected home is now reality, not a fantasy. The global market for smart-home appliances is expected to be worth $38.35 billion by 2020, and will only grow as demand and consumer interest in smart appliances increases. Shoppers will be looking for smarter appliances, but these can be balanced with regular models depending on a consumer’s desire to have some or all of their devices connected.

Some categories are clearly just jumping on the bandwagon, such as a connected SDA, which is in most cases an expensive and underused version of a regular appliance.Yet when considering the connected home from a long-term financial and time-efficiency perspective, some are valid purchases, once you’ve weighed up the cost against its potential long-term worth. Many of these domestic appliance products are, however, costly and there’s a good chance that if you could afford a kitchen and utility room full of connected devices, you’re perhaps not going to be the one cleaning or cooking and directly using the connected devices.

For retailers, the margins on smart appliances are evident, however this must be weighed up against unit sales, which may mean a lower margin than your bread-and-butter range could achieve if it were occupying the same space in your store. While the investment in ranging smart appliances may not be attractive at the moment, remember that sales in John Lewis stores in the smart-home category increased by 81 per cent year on year from 2014 to 2015. This is a growing trend that will likely spread to independent retailers, as smart appliances become increasingly more mainstream.

Having a select range of smart appliances gives your store an aspirational product and proposition for shoppers to consider when looking for a new washing machine or fridge. It’s worth considering that many shoppers looking to purchase a new appliance are doing so as a ‘distress purchase’. These consumers will be looking for a reliable device, not necessarily one with smart features.

However, a demonstration from a knowledgeable staff member connected via a tablet or smartphone, to explain the benefits of the smart system, may persuade many shoppers to purchase for the long-term benefits. These include compatibility with future smart appliances they may add to their home.

My advice is to pepper your range with connected devices, but don’t forget the mass-market appeal of traditional appliances and offer choice at all price points and functionality.

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/smart-move/

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