Brands Should Focus on Delivering a ‘Human’ Experience in the Brave New World

CXM Graphic

The uncertainty surrounding the fallout from lockdown and consumers’ changed behaviour makes the task of forecasting the future a difficult one for brands. While commentators obsess about the performance of channels and the extent to which ecommerce is replacing bricks and mortar, we are in danger of missing the key factor. Namely the customer.

As the global population responds to the coronavirus pandemic, key trends are emerging, reshaping the consumers priorities and spending outlook in the UK. The real dividing line is between those who respond and offer a great customer experience with those who don’t.

A changed context: New patterns of behaviour established

Every aspect of our life has been impacted. This ranges from the focus on the preservation of health & wellbeing to the renewed focus on the connection with family and friends to cope with the impact on personal safety and security.

Meanwhile, new behaviour patterns for work & play have emerged. We are staying at home to reduce travel and human interaction. This is, in turn, is changing spending habits as consumers adapt and fill their time in new ways.

Brands have had to find a new raison d’etre and are discovering new ways to communicate that emphasise empathy for employees and customers as they go into overdrive to overcome the downturn.

eCommerce can’t offer a true brand experience

While we have remained at home ecommerce has thrived and will be of growing importance. However, the evidence shows online sales will not completely replace lost revenue from traditional retail which needs to be examined.

Online retail sales share increased to 30.8 percent in May and June, however it is forecasted to decrease by 9 percent as stores open. The fact remains customer experience in considered purchases remain important as online can’t offer a true brand experience. Customers still long for the human interaction and advice that comes as part of the bricks and mortar shopping experience.

This was born out by a study we carried out last year that indicated 59 percent of people would always rather speak to a person than an automated system to find out more information about a product. Meanwhile, 73 percent preferred dealing with a human when trying to get a refund.

Innovation tackling safety concerns

So what lessons can retailers and brands take? The circle needs to be squared of people wanting an in-store experience when they are less likely to go to a shop. They also need to have their safety concerns considered when they do venture out.

Interactions can be managed and ideally, some element of browsing can already have been delivered.

Bringing the shop floor to the digital realm

For those more nervous about venturing out, innovative technology can deliver the desired customer experience. For example, Ikea has acquired AR startup Geomagical Labs, driving shoppers to purchase more big-ticket items without needing to visit a store. Geomagical Labs’ key product allows users to scan a room using a smartphone, render that into a panoramic 3D picture, remove all the furniture currently in it and then change the layout of items around the room by adding new items to scale.

This type of innovation and AR more generally will create more engaging digital experiences to help customers accurately visualise their home with new furniture. The same could apply to a whole range of product categories. Smart brands and retailers will be able to gain an advantage through differentiation of this kind.

It’s good to talk

While this may replicate the ‘show’ part of the in-store experience, a gap remains for the ‘tell’ part led by an expert. Retailers need to consider new ways of delivering human interaction, often required with higher ticket items. For example, instore advice can be replaced by training staff in call centres which could replicate the expert advisor instore. The human advice so desired by customers can be given but at a safe distance. This could range from product advice to refunds.

The focus should be a seamless experience delivered across all touchpoints, instead of obsessing about the false divide between online and offline. Retailers and brands need to put the customer’s needs front and centre and understand the need for a human touch. This is the best way of preparing for an uncertain future.

To read the full article please visit CXM.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Five behavioural trends to take note of as the high street re-opens

The Drum Five Behaviour Trends

The latest signs of economic recovery look promising. So promising that Andy Haldane, The Bank of England economist, believes that the UK economy is growing at 1% a week. The V-shaped recession thought to be unlikely just a month ago now seems to be very much on the cards again.

Retail has been a big motor for this mini-recovery. People have been returning to the high street in large numbers with UK retail sales near pre-lockdown levels in June. According to the ONS, the amount of goods sold last month increased by 13.9% in June compared to May. The trend has continued in July as the reopening of shops supports pent-up demand punctuated with the roll out of marketing activity and campaigns to support retail in its reawakening mode.

The worry remains that the recovery may stall due to consumer confidence dipping. Consumers need to also have their safety concerns addressed. A real understanding of new behaviour is critical to maintaining momentum. So what are the key behavioural trends that retailers and brands should take notice of?

Safety is now the top priority

The starting point for bricks and mortar retailing pre-coronavirus may have been expert salespeople, attractive window displays, in-store offers and branding. Today the starting point is safety. Many shoppers still do not want to venture into public spaces without a purpose. In fact more than half of consumers, who would have shopped instore pre-coronavirus, now believe the risk to be high. This poses a serious challenge for many retailers seeking to draw shoppers back to stores. The focus has to be on reassuring these customers and clearly demonstrating your credentials across all your communications touchpoints.

Late adopters have finally embraced ecommerce

With new fears for safety, evidence shows some consumers intend to permanently change their shopping behaviour. This includes purchasing more online due to the continuing risks of infection. Many late adopters are the new converts to online. They have been slow to adopt online banking and shopping but they have done it now. This has not been driven by choice but due to fear about offline shopping. In fact, shoppers are now four times more likely to shift to online in the long term, particularly if they have health concerns. Local lockdowns like that in Leicester will only serve to reinforce the wariness.

In-store consumers are more likely to convert

The good news is that those who like to shop in person will continue to do so to have a decent customer experience. While online retail sales increased to 30.8% in May they are forecast to have decreased by 9% as stores open. In other words, while online is growing it still can’t fully replace the bricks and mortar experience. In response many brands and retailers have adopted an omnichannel proposition, rather than choosing one over the other. The resilience of instore is more evident in considered purchases and in the CE category where we are seeing consumers shopping with purpose. They are travelling and entering retail with a clear determination to purchase. As a result we are seeing a conversion rates of over 40% of product demonstrations leading to a sale. Naturally, this is determined by the experience and engagement they receive in-store. Therefore, a bad retail environment or salesperson pre lockdown isn’t going to change that post lockdown.

The home will remain our new centre of existence

In response to the lockdown, the reality of working from home has meant a likely shift in the workplace dynamic for many on temporary or permanent basis. Therefore, many technology brands in the market have shifted focus to home productivity and accessories. Retail must take learnings from this to support the initiatives and messaging put out by brands. This will ensure they are able to engage consumers looking for technology to support their change in working habits and in turn grow with the trend. As we spend more time also that clear winners throughout and ongoing are food retailers and also home stores with many opting to tackle home improvement projects whilst in lockdown and on furlough.

The rise in demand for appointments

As we are moving from a browsing culture to a purpose driven one, we are going to see the rise of the appointment booking. This will certainly be the case in the considered purchase space. It seems those who commit to the appointment do so with a clear intention to purchase within the set appointment duration. This trend seems to be speeding up the customer journey and increasing much needed sales.

To succeed in this new environment retailers need to be creative, follow the trends and create a customer experience worthy of a sale.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let Me Engage You

LMEY

Our experience of working with tech and CE brands in retailers such as Currys and John Lewis has taught us that engagement with RSAs doesn’t have to complete once our brand ambassador has left the store.

At the beginning of the year we invested in developing our own digital Learning Management System (LMS) and engagement platform to extend the support Gekko provides for brands beyond the physical store. With the subsequent lockdown and challenges of getting back in-store, we’re glad we made that decision and are now pleased to be able to offer this innovative service to brands.

Let Me Engage You or LMEY is aimed at third party retail sales teams, whether based on the shop floor, in contact centres or online sales teams. As a fully brandable platform, LMEY can supplement the face to face engagement and training provided by field teams as well as extending reach to retailers, stores and regions not covered by such teams – a ‘digital first’ approach.

Speak to us and let us show you how we can make LMEY work for you an inexpensive and effective tool.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gekko expands with key senior appointments

New Recruits

Gekko, a field and retail marketing agency specialised in enhancing the shopper journey on behalf of brands across both the physical and digital retail space, has made four key appointments as it invests in new initiatives to drive growth for the business and clients and reflect the current retail landscape.

Jeremy Daniels has joined as a senior Account Director for the business where he is responsible for directing and expanding the agency’s strategic partnerships with key clients. With a wealth of experience in the Telco sector, Jeremy brings not only industry knowledge and commercial acumen but also the drive to spot and maximise sales opportunities. His most recent role was managing the UK launch of Xiaomi into key retailers as well as the distribution channel. Previous roles have been at LG Mobile, ModeLabs and Kondor. 

Coming from Oppo Mobile, Wilkin Lee joins as Client Services Director to oversee all strategic client relationships. Recruited for his tech industry experience and understanding of the retailer landscape, Wilkin will ensure that as the business grows, that clients continue to receive the strategic support and commercial direction they need to succeed in retail both online and in stores.  Aside from Oppo, his career has seen him in roles at industry leading brands including Xiaomi and Huawei.

To lead Gekko’s data and reporting team, Tom Harwood joins as Data & Insight Manager from within the retail industry having worked at QVC and Cotswold Outdoor.  His role is to provide campaign, category and marketing information and analysis to Gekko’s portfolio of clients and the retailers they partner.

Finally, to expand Gekko’s ecommerce marketing capabilities, extending and complimenting the services provided to clients from traditional retail to the online retail space, Charles Burrows joins in the newly created role of e-commerce manager. By understanding the online retailer environment in relation to third party e-commerce sites and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) positioning of brand products and messaging, Gekko will now be able to direct and guide e-commerce strategies and improve sales opportunities with customers and retailers. Charles is a digital expert with many years’ experience in the Gaming and Telco sector including roles at EE and Carphone Warehouse

Commenting on the appointments, Daniel Todaro, MD, Gekko said: ““During this pandemic, we’ve seen the increasing trend of the contraction of brick and mortar retail expedite.  As a company that specialises in helping brands be more successful in retail, we’ve spent this time working closely with our clients to establish how best we can continue to help them to thrive across both bricks and mortar channels and e-commerce to improve the customer experience and sales.  The above additions to the team will help us to strengthen our business and deliver on our promise to clients and demonstrates Gekko’s resilience and adaptability during the lockdown by deciding to invest in leading industry talent”.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Demonstrating sector knowledge & experience

We reckoned that as the lockdown started to kick-in back in March our clients would want their agency to continue providing them with fantastic insight and analysis of the changing situation in the channel.

So over the past 5 months we’ve continued to demonstrate our experience & understanding of these sectors by keeping them fully briefed on the latest situation with insightful reporting that has seen Gekko Marketing reports, Scrapbook decks  and Newsletters going out on a weekly basis.

These resources have been highly valued and instrumental in shaping our plans for getting our brand teams back to work as rapidly as possible with the easing of lockdown. 

And our latest ‘Future Outlook’ report looks at the trends we are seeing coming into the 2nd half of the year and beyond with predictions and analysis, bearing in mind the impact of the coronavirus on the markets.

Speak to us to find out how our sector experience can add huge value to your retail campaigns.

#Resilience #Ability #Experience #People.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Getting our teams Back to Work

As the Gekko team returns to their positions from across the field to the head office we are ensuring that they feel safe back in the working environment.

Key to this has been using our newly developed online engagement platform to provide crucial safety protocol training to every Gekko employee.

We’ve also been creating unique PPE Packs for each team member to suit their role. This means that everyone will have the correct equipment to keep themselves safe and their work areas clean.

From face masks and visors to cleaning kits and POS, we want to make sure that the team knows we are putting their health and safety first as they return to their new normal.

Follow us on LinkedIn and our Blog to read more posts on this and how we’ve shown resilience, and demonstrated ability and experience in supporting our people and our clients over the past five months.

Tagged

We’re still here, we’ve been busy

2020 started positively for Gekko with renewed campaigns and new clients and a sense of optimism for the year ahead. In the first week of March we were recognised as the Marketing & PR Agency of the Year at the PCR Awards.

Lockdown put paid to many plans and campaigns but having anticipated some of what lay ahead, we were quick to put measures in place to support our clients in new and creative ways and above all to keep our teams safe.

Gekko decided it would adapt – we would be resilient, we would innovate and invest, all with a view to getting our teams back to work as soon as possible, and putting their concerns at the heart of what we do – and in doing so doing our bit to get the nation and the marketing industry back on its feet.

Now that non-essential retail has been reopening over the past weeks and our campaigns involving field teams have been heading back in-store to support our brands and the retailers, we’re proud of what we’ve done to make this happen. Over the coming weeks we’ll publish a series of posts outlining what we’ve been up to supporting our brands, our people, retailers and ultimately consumers as they’ve shopped initially online and in recent weeks back in stores.

Speak to us and find out how working for and with an agency that has shown resilience, and demonstrated ability and experience in supporting our people and our clients over the past five months.

Tagged

Luxury Retailing in Times of Crisis — Regaining the Crown

The luxury landscape is changing and world-renowned brands are feeling the impact from consumers’ changing behaviour, a post lockdown drop in revenues, and higher costs of raw materials. Gekko MD Daniel Todaro dives deeper into the topic.

I read with interest about how Luxury Fashion Boutiques opened in Paris, one of the first capitals to do so. This created much excitement amongst those fashion-starved aficionados and trend-setters.

I’ve said it before: Retail is possibly one of the most dynamic industries globally and luxury brands lead in this area of expertise in many ways, like no other. Retail, in particular luxury retail, has had to continuously adapt to changing consumer behaviours over the decades, as well as the trends that drive the desire to shop. Offering choice that appeals to every distinct generation and their character traits is essential to maintain desire.

At the high end, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Hermes are offering customers private shopping sessions; no doubt, these will be to their loyal customer base. Done creatively and properly, these sessions will also offer deviation from the so-called ‘new normal’ to create another level of exclusivity and brand attachment.
For others, though, with the need to quarantine for 48 to 72 hours garments that have been handled, let alone worn, as well as disinfecting changing rooms after every use, it becomes challenging to maintain that allure of a luxury brand.

This challenge is perhaps demonstrated by the lack of customers just one week after re-opening, queuing to cross the threshold of ‘fashion heaven’. In the first week, the initial rush drew masses that complied with the carefully orchestrated queues. These excitable brand devotees could not wait to indulge themselves on May 11th, with crowds flocking to the boutiques, but were queue-free just one week on. With no tourists in the city and the initial rush satisfied for those desperate, the demand has dropped.

So, the challenge for luxury brands is how do you make it matter for consumers? Why am I queuing and what do I need the items for when there is nowhere to go, no bars, clubs, or parties to attend. With restaurants not open for that special occasion or to meet friends and live events, awards, launches or red-velvet rope to get waved through, why bother shopping? No one will see that new watch, bag, dress, or killer heels, so now the thought of spending your money deviates to other activities and worse, alternative brands and products.

Shopping per se and, in particular within the luxury sector, will not disappear — well, not just yet. But how a brand targets an audience to shop differently, with purpose, may diminish if not handled innovatively. Therefore, learning from this rather frustrating lockdown is an opportunity to move away from the conventional norm and spearhead change that delivers the purpose many expect.

With a forecasted 30% decline in the personal luxury goods category this financial year and whose reliance on China accounts for 35% of the luxury goods market, it’s becoming more challenging for brands to appeal to their once established audience and broaden their reach and appeal beyond just being luxury.

Examples of those feeling the impact of the changing luxury landscape are, surprisingly, the masters of luxury. Kering, the owner of brands like Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Balenciaga, reported a 15.4% drop in revenue in Q1. Likewise, LVMH, owner of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Fenty, and Givenchy, reported a 15% drop in revenue for the same period.

Luxury brands, from Chanel to Louis Vuitton, have increased prices for some of their most coveted products as they seek to make up for lost sales during weeks of lockdown. Chanel said, in late May, that it was increasing prices for its iconic handbags and some small leather goods by between 5% and 17% around the world, as the pandemic had pushed up the cost of certain raw materials.

Jewelers are not immune, either. Exports are down 21.9% for Swiss watches, with the closure of watch factories and their global retail network hitting their sales hard, even more so as this sector deliberately avoids online with only 5% of new watch sales transacted online. The result is that the total volume has decreased by 43.1%.

Therefore, the need for immediate change is at the top of the to-do list for every brand, whether it be luxury, exclusive, or desired.

The Perspex screens, social-distancing floor stickers, masked sales associates, and complete avoidance techniques employed to stop shoppers touching items, won’t be acceptable to many. More so, this increases the impact on brands whose equity diminishes as precautionary measures blur the lines between exclusivity and normality.

What retail and the luxury sector are experts at achieving is evolution. The innovation in customer experience we see on the high street more often than not started life in the luxury sector: Burberry, with its iPad-clutching sales associates several years back is a prime example, now common across the channel. Therefore, while brands and retailers start implementing reopening plans, it’s an opportunity to think about how the next generation of retailing begins, and many will be looking to learn from luxury brands.

Change requires a flair for dynamism to aid survival and create those meaningful connections through an omnichannel, eco-friendly, societal, and technology-driven approach. Enhancing the customer journey post-crisis to continue the brand experience for all consumers, more so for those who chose to shop with you, is essential in creating long-lasting emotional brand engagements that convert naturally, without pretension, into valuable sales.

Article originally published on Branding.com

Tagged , , , , , ,

Retail’s post-COVID-19 silver lining

While retailers start developing their reopening plans, Gekko’s Managing Director Daniel Todaro looks at the opportunities for the next generation of our high streets…

The story has been consistently bleak across the board since we locked down back in March and for non-essential retail, the doors were firmly shut with zero footfall. However, consumer support for local independent businesses has increased and those retailers who adapted are learning that a good strategy will make them better placed to trade post-COVID-19.

There has been a 36% overall decline in-store sales of non-food items in the last 3 months to April and I wouldn’t be surprised if you suggested that retail is a busted flush. Yes, the challenge is vast and it will be difficult but we do know that shoppers still crave the High Street and 55% of UK consumers want to support local retail businesses as a result of lockdown.

Online sales have increased by a not very surprising 19% taking the digital share of all retail sales to a new high of 23.8%. If I’m honest, it probably won’t reduce significantly after lockdown which does mean that traditional retailers will need to work harder to ease the trend.

Retailers must think digitally to survive, taking an omnichannel approach, whilst still maintaining a sustainable and collaborative approach. This has never been more relevant than now.

I’ve said it before, retail is possibly one of the most dynamic industries globally and the UK leads in this area of expertise in many ways. The High Street has over the decades had to continuously adapt to changing consumer behaviours as well as the trends that drive the desire to shop by offering choices that appeal to every distinct generation and their character traits.

Learning from this rather frustrating lockdown is an opportunity to move away from the chatter about the ‘failing’ High Street and spearhead change with purpose. Change that requires a flair for dynamism to aid survival and create those meaningful connections through an omnichannel, eco-friendly, societal and technology-driven approach. Enhancing the customer journey and brand experience for all consumers who chose to shop with you is essential in creating long-lasting emotional engagements that convert into sales.

What the High Street is good at is evolving. So while we all start developing our reopening plans and await a date for retail to open its doors once again, the opportunity to think about the next generation of our High Streets begins.

We, like many retailers, adapted as soon as the lockdown was official on the 23rd and having anticipated its coming several weeks before, we started to innovate the manner we marketed high-value technology products to consumers. In doing so we met the brands’ and the retailers’ needs, whilst not forgetting the importance of a personal touch for consumers.

It is true that beyond the brand awareness created through advertising, consumers do like to go into a store to experience the products they are considering buying. The ability to make informed decisions is achieved by being given a demonstration by people who are knowledgeable. That’s why shops like multiple retailer Currys and the hundreds of independent stores exist, providing a service you just can’t get online. The very essence of this service, potentially under threat post-COVID-19 through social distancing means operating whilst keeping people at a 2m distance, eroding the consumers desired experience. Whilst retailers are considering how they can safely and effectively open their doors, the consideration of how to maintain a semblance of customer experience for both retail and brands is also important.

As a retail and field marketing agency, one of our core services is to provide in-store promoters who work on behalf of brands to create a curated customer journey. This extends to creating strategies that build relationships with Retail Sales Advisors (RSAs) to provide them with valuable training techniques to build knowledge and sales tips.

In normal times, we would do this in person but very rapidly we adapted to achieve this through providing online training to RSAs. This is something that we will continue doing while innovating with retailers to create and deliver solutions that look to develop the channel, whilst meeting the required statutory guidelines.

Never has something come along like this pandemic that has affected so many aspects of what we and brands do in traditional retail, however, I remain immensely positive. The challenge ahead means never being scared of change again and evolving. The dramatic 17% fall in sales across non-food retailers, forecasted to translate as £37bn in lost revenue can be reversed, maybe not all but definitely in part.

We’ve seen during lockdown consumers attempting to emulate the high street cafe experience by stocking up on coffee makers and it appears that many are also taking the opportunity to upgrade kitchens in the absence of being able to dine out and this trend is expected to continue. In addition, with more people being encouraged to continue working from home, some may ditch their shared workspace desk and will want to upgrade IT equipment to make those VC’s come to life or at least run better. This ‘upgrade’ opportunity should naturally extend from these across all other categories, making the home the ideal and safest place to go to work and have fun, which will need new or upgraded gadgets to make it so.

So the change begins and while making sure we look after our employees, keeping the retailers happy as well as keeping their customers and staff safe, we have to keep performing the very service that’s required from us as effectively as possible to drive knowledge, advocacy and sales.

The back to work planning process is an extremely layered and complex situation to navigate with a multitude of stakeholders involved and a communal agreement needed. This ranges from queuing, managing social distancing, all the rules we are used to and are working very well for food retailers but how do we make it translate to retailers selling considered purchases. Specialist technology and consumer electronic retailers are built on interaction which in some cases is essential to achieve a sale.

This extends to how we also engage with retailers and RSAs to sell or train a range of consumer electronics that must be understood. We must consider how we merchandise fixtures that must be cleaned after every touch as do the demo products used to facilitate a sale. Solutions we innovate with must ensure we maintain the delivery of an experience that converts the shopper into a customer of a brand and more importantly that buys there and then.

Encouraging the use of e-learning within channels by all RSA will enable them to develop their knowledge by learning about products and their usage. In addition, we can develop the experience by coaching them to understand that every selling situation differs and therefore the approach must also.

The challenge is creating and planning to devise a whole new way of training staff to sell in a manner which makes the consumer feel comfortable, also safe whilst not diminishing the brand experience. Proactively working with brand partners to innovate and help bring retail staff and consumers along on the journey, maybe the key to success post-COVID-19.

Whilst the need to equip teams with masks, gloves, sanitiser and stores with demarcation signage etc. is a necessary evil, in turn diminishing your ambience, the true challenge we must rise to defeat, is converting those negative forces to see the potential. It can be done and retailers have a unique opportunity to create and implement exciting new, fully-fledged plans that are actionable and not theoretical. Plans that innovate to work for your business, which are continually fit for purpose and future proof.

Yes, we must definitely follow the guidelines, we must also in the most effective manner possible, communicate our plans with staff and retrain to merchandise and sell with a new approach. We mustn’t be afraid, we must be brave, we must seek the silver lining to create new rules and ways of trading that work specifically for retail. Changes that innovate to resonate confidently with customers.

Article published at PCR Online

Tagged , , ,

Retail will need to adjust to the commercial realities of Covid-19

PCRMAY2020

Gekko Field Marketing’s MD, Daniel Todaro, discusses whether the Coronavirus will present the opportunity to re-appraise the retail experience and increase communities’ appreciation of the high street

So here we are amidst the most bizarre of situations that no one in their lifetime has experienced. There’s never been a global pandemic or an instance that has distanced human beings to this extent. I’m optimistic and believe that we will come out of this experience as better business people with a new perspective to how we go about running our companies.

The pandemic has seen all but essential retail close with figures published by Google showing an 85% drop in footfall to retail destinations over the first two weeks of the pandemic, marginally improving by 3% to 82% in week three.

It’s true to say that some businesses may regrettably not survive the economic impact of the situation, which is indeed unprecedented, but for some it could have been avoidable if those who hold the power acted more responsibly. Talking Retail published some embarrassing statistics surrounding the government’s Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which saw only 1.4% of applicants successfully receiving loans. Putting this into perspective, of the estimated 300,000+ firms that applied, only 4,200 businesses have received rescue loans from banks. That was three weeks after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the scheme alongside the Employee Retention Scheme, more commonly known by employees as the Furlough Scheme. This in itself provided some false hope for employers and employees. As to this day, it is still not fully understood by all because the Government is yet to publish full qualifying criteria or the portal for companies to apply.

Now, if you’re one of those businesses that has generated virtually no revenue and is still covering your overheads with what cash flow you have remaining, I suspect a loan would be useful to ensure that you could at least pay your staff the 80% the government has promised to cover. What most don’t understand is that you still require the cash flow to cover your payroll, even at 80%, whilst you wait for the funds in the form of the grant from the Government.

Whilst I do not wish to criticise the Government’s approach, as these initiatives are brilliant and what you’d expect from the world sixth largest economy to protect its GDP and lessen the impact on the welfare state, they are however reactionary. The speed of announcements for these knee jerk initiatives has unfortunately meant that the communication to all was poor. Compounded by misunderstandings as lawyers, accountants and advisors speculated on what the government would do forgetting to explain to small business that none of this advice being offered was not actually based on fact.

As a small business you rely on many outlets to advise you accordingly and help guide a business in its decision making. My fear is that all this unqualified advice is making matters worse and creating more issues for when we are ready to get back to business as normal, as there remains many unknowns that impact future planning.

It’s been reported that in March, retail declined 4.3% and non- food purchases online accounted for 40% of all online sales. As a marketing agency that specialises in technology and leisure brands, this statistic is of particular interest to me. So what can marketers, sales people and retail do to ensure technology and CE retail are able to come back with a bang?

Our fundamental societal roles have changed – working, shopping, education etc. – as well as our attitudes to the community roles we all took for granted. Those truly crucial to society – our NHS, bin men, local butchers, bakers, milk deliveries etc. have been elevated to heroes and saviours, doing all they can to serve their local communities.

So, the question we’re all pondering is will it lead to a reappraisal of the role of independent retailers in the community? Will consumers look differently upon what they may have previously considered out of date. We are all shopping local, where stores are open, from the independent hardware store to the corner shop and long term, I know my shopping habits will now incorporate these stores often and not in an ‘emergency’.

And what’s come to the fore more than anything is that local shops are more than just places to buy products.

So with a new captive audience and acceptance of service to society, how can independent retailers revive their fortunes by socialising their new audience and retain them through experiences? We all understand the power of retail experiences, but we now need to plan ahead and look at this with a post- COVID-19 social lens. Because let’s face it, the first thing people will want to do after lock down is go to pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas, shops and thoroughly enjoy themselves with those they’ve missed, and experience the feeling they’ve been deprived of for some time. This includes the experience of physical retail and reliving the enthusiasm of consumerism as a pastime, rather than having another brown box left outside your door.

Therefore, whilst still in lockdown, plan how you’re going to come out fighting. Use the time to think about what you could do certain things differently to enhance the experience – smaller range, bigger ranging, specialisation, marketing, PR, advertising, training, services.

Engage with your brand partners and encourage them to support you with offers, training and local marketing budgets. And then add to this how to socialise it – free coffee, fitting service, desk space to speak to someone face-to-face, new displays, improved window dressing, giving back to the community, offering key worker discounts?

Shopping habits of the great British nation are undoubtedly going to change after a period of social distancing. Retail will need to adjust to the commercial realities of the COVID-19 crisis and the long term effects it will inevitably create. But when this is all over, if marketed right, it could create opportunities to entice shoppers back through the doors with reopening parties and offers to kick start buying again and encouraging the nation to treat itself.

The treat aspect is essential to bring back the joy of shopping and in doing so creating an opportunity for brands and retailers to make shopping fun and personal again.

Read PCR Magazine here

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: