CES 2020 Review: The most interesting tech from this year’s show

Gekko Field Marketing MD Daniel Todaro rounds up his interesting tech finds from this year’s CES show

The New Year in tech wouldn’t be the same without CES, the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas between 7th – 10th January attended by almost every established tech brand, start up brands, incubator and brand on the periphery of technology with something to showcase. The products on display range from the expected to the unusual, as in the case of sex tech, which for the first time seems to have found its place and acceptance at CES. As indeed has Ivanka Trump, who was controversially invited to headline as the keynote speaker when arguably there are far more qualified females, actually from the technology sector, rather than this particular privileged individual.

CES welcomed over 175,000 visitors to see over 4,500 exhibitors and 1,000+ speakers making it quite a big deal within the technology industry. It also means lots of product and innovation announcements, such as the smart shower head with Alexa built-in from Kohler, a smart frying pan that analyses your food whilst you cook it from SmartyPans, to autonomous vehicles from the now established brands in this sector and not so with Sony launching its autonomous vehicle prototype named Vision S. The vehicle is a prototype designed to show off the firm’s sensors and in-car entertainment technologies. The dashboard is flanked by an ultra-wide panoramic screen for driving information and entertainment. However, Sony did not indicate that it had any plans to sell the car to the public with Sony’s chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida only stating “We will accelerate our efforts to contribute to the future of mobility”.

Do you Uber? Well in future you may be doing so in the Uber Hyundai flying taxi. The S-A1 concept is an electric powered aircraft with four rotors for vertical lift off and landing and conceptually able to travel at a maximum speed of 180mph carrying four passengers. Flying autonomously at 2,000ft for a maximum of 60 miles, it may be zipping across a city skyline near you in the not too distant future.

Surveillance related technology seemed to be big this year with multiple brands showcasing security equipment such as cameras, doorbells and motion sensors, which is really rather boring and perhaps only serves to feed the paranoia of those who fear the worst. Loosely connected to this category is one of my favourite products to be announced, a smart mailbox developed by Canadian company Danby, which addresses the common problem of parcels thefts and re-deliveries. The device would assist in reducing the carbon footprint of our propensity to order online for delivery rather than buy in-store. The smart mailbox will apparently go on sale in the UK later this year offering a box which has an anti-theft drop-in slot for smaller packages opened with a code or smartphone app. The app will also be able to place phone calls between a parcel courier and a customer if they need to open the box remotely. I suspect this will get simplified should usage increase amongst users and online retailers.

Samsung Balie device
Samsung’s Ballie – a tennis ball-like robot that rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’

Another neat headline grabber announced at CES 2020 was the Samsung tennis ball-like robot called Ballie. It beeps and rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’. Ballie also acts as a fitness assistant, can help with household chores, and activates smart home devices such as robotic vacuums when it thinks something needs to be cleaned. However, in common with the Daleks, it will find stairs a challenge! No release date has been announced, however AI and 5G are the main focus for Samsung in 2020 and not Bixby, as had been much hyped last year. Another product launched by Samsung and to be available in the UK and US later this year is the Sero TV, a rotating TV which connects to your phone. Perfect for Generation Z or those who spend equal time watching on a small device as they do TV. It can be rotated from landscape to portrait and is only available in a 47” 4k screen and estimated to land at £1,200.

Another twist on the laptop came from Dynabook. Majority owned by Sharp and formally Toshiba, the brand that launched the world’s first laptop computer in 1985, Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. Weighing in at an impressive 0.9kg and sporting a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor the Portege X30L-G is built using a magnesium-alloy chassis and includes a full-size HDMI. With Gigabit Ethernet, up to 24GB memory and Wi-Fi 6 the device also includes a TPM 2.0 IR camera and fingerprint reader.

Not to be outdone was Lenovo with its ThinkPad X1. A dual/ folding screened laptop with an Intel processor that runs Windows on a 13” screen when unfolded. It is slated to arrive mid 2020 in the US at a price of $2,499 with no word yet on UK pricing.

In fact, there were a rash of foldable screens on display this year and it certainly seems to be a trend not looking to abate soon, making 2020 potentially the start of a flexible decade. Foldable screens were launched on devices from turkish brand TCL and its prototype Foldable Phone (no name as of yet) and Dell with two concepts, the Duet – Foldable Notebook and Ori – a Foldable Device, unfortunately no plans to release these have been indicated. The much publicised Motorola Razr foldable phone was on display which has been available for pre order since December but was set for released during January 2020.

As you can imagine, smart speakers and assistant-enabled products were everywhere at CES 2020. With over 46 third-party Google Assistant-endabled products and 40 Amazon Alexa ones, it made the presence of both brands more notable throughout the show, with Google creating theatre to engage, as they do best.

Google revealed, for the first time, user numbers for the services is at 500 million people in a month and also a whole range of new features enabling users to schedule certain tasks with other connected devices. The features will allow users to, for example, schedule the washing machine to start its cycle at 6pm and also upload contacts from your phone to your Google Nest Hub.

Users will also be able to leave Sticky Notes on the screen for others in the house to see and have the ability to control 20 different types of devices through Google Assistant, which is needed with the increasing third party product partnerships.

Dynabook Portege X30L-G laptop
Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. The Portege X30L-G weighs in at an impressive 0.9kg and sports a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor

Now we are all busy people and many time saving devices were on show but two stood out to me. The first will make sure we never need to drink a warm tinny again. The Matrix Juno supercooler is a kitchen countertop device priced at £300 which uses a thermoelectric cooling engine to absorbs heat using electricity known as the Peltier effect. It can cool a can of beer from room temperature to 4oc in two minutes or a bottle of wine to its desired 9oc in five minutes.

The other is the Y-brush toothbrush from FasTeesH designed to clean your teeth in 10 seconds. It’s a mouthguard type contraption packed with bristles that vibrate to clean all your teeth at the same time, arriving in March at around £100. I can’t help but think that making time by speeding up the process of cleaning your teeth has never been a priority for many, the cleaning is what counts.

Not wanting to ignore the most progressive news at CES this year, I think it important to highlight and applaud the CES organisers decision to now formally allow sex tech brands to exhibit at CES in 2020 after many years of exclusion. What this means is that sex tech companies are on the same playing field as all but in particular the established tech giants. However, there are exclusions with those companies exhibiting sexual wellness products having to agree in addition to the CES’s standard contract and rules also a separate sex toy addendum.

Why is this a progressive move? It’s predicted to be a $50 billion industry by 2025 and as taboos tumble and generations embrace a pragmatic approach to sexuality and sex, it’s an industry sector the ‘big players’ may wish to enter and penetrate as a lucrative growth market.

With so many new products announced at CES 2020, what does it mean for retailers? And how must they adapt to innovation across existing and new categories? Experience. Consumers are looking to experience innovation in order to make educated purchasing decisions. Whether that be by seeing a foldable screen in their hand to believe it, engaging with a personal robot to realise its value to them as a user or see that TV rotate 180 degrees, it’s all about the in-store experience a retailer can create where no online retailer can.

Innovation needs to be experienced live, not online and the retailers who can identify with this can cut through to make the tills ring by 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 they shop and where they are do it that has changed. Retail, as an industry, is vital to the global economy, so as we enter a new era of high street retailing, my advice to brands is: Always let consumers ‘live’ the experience and feel the brand.

To read the article on PCR online click here

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Why millennials are ignoring the environmental impact of online shopping

The Drum Blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%. And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers. In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds. And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

Please visit The Drum to read the full article.

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Are Millenials easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online?

Bitesize blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%.  And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers.  In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds.  And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko, says: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact. The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there are less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit IPM Bitesize.

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Do millennials ignore the environmental impact of online shopping?

Bdaily blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%. And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers. In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds. And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit BDaily.

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Are millennials ignoring the environmental impact of online shopping?

Retail Times Blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%.  And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers.  In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds.  And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit Retail Times.

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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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