Real people not robots is what consumers want from retailers

Robot Shop

The study found that 81% of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32 percent) blaming an over reliance on technology for this decline. And half of those polled think that companies in the UK are using technology to save money, rather than improve customer experience.

Despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology at the sacrifice of humans’ opinions and experience.  Only 30 percent said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22 percent smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16 percent a virtual reality changing room, 14 percent augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and 9 percent a talking robot assistant.

When it comes to buying online, 43 percent of UK shoppers have had their screen freeze while trying to make a purchase, so when asked what makes a great bricks and mortar shopping experience, 49 percent of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor, staff that know the products (49 percent) and staff that go the extra mile (47 percent). Coupled with this, 61 percent of the nation would prefer to deal face to face when complaining, 59 percent when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73 percent when getting a refund.

And businesses take heed – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22 percent) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, incrementally adding to sales. Over a third (34 percent) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer.

The research also highlights the impact of the decline of the local shop, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them, 16 per cent confessing they preferred the days when they could talk through a purchase with a someone in-store, and a quarter saying online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop.  The convenience of a store’s location is also stated as important by 43 per cent of respondents which means that as retailers consolidate their estates, many will notice the effects, further emphasising the need to carefully consider the experience being provided in-store and the staff needed to deliver the experience.

According to the research we waste almost an hour and a half a month – which is 17 hours a year, the equivalent of more than two days at work – interacting with automated technology, only for a human to have to step in and help.

Bug bears include getting someone to rectify a problem with the self-service checkout, and ringing customer services and dealing with a recorded voice, only to repeat the details to the person you end up talking to.

Little wonder, then, that 51 percent of Brits have slammed the phone down during an automated call, as the system didn’t recognise what they were saying.  And 47 percent of shoppers have experienced self-service checkout failure that’s had to be rectified by a shop assistant.

In fact, more than three quarters (77 percent) of UK shoppers admit they’d much rather use a checkout with a person on it, rather than taking the self-service option.  More than 4 in ten (43 percent) British shoppers would rather speak to a person than an automated system when making a phone enquiry, with almost a quarter (23 percent) ending up having to complain on social media when their query hasn’t been responded to via the automated service.

Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko said: “Everyone is talking about technology and innovation within retail, but our research clearly shows that what consumers really want is the human touch.  With traditional retail under more pressure than ever and an astonishing 81% of people feeling that the personal touch has disappeared from shopping, businesses need to focus on the customer experience in these tough trading times to help keep the high street alive.”

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Predictions: It’s getting personal…

Bexit

Start planning now to remain relevant to your customer base as we move into 2019

Much as I might want to avoid the subject, it is impossible to look at retail predictions for 2019 without looking through the lens of Brexit. As the uncertainty continues over a possible deal, I want to try and think about the effect it will have on retailers in 2019, what is probably concerning them and what, if anything, we can do to brace ourselves.

I watched with interest the Channel 4 live debate show, Brexit: What the Nation Really Thinks, which aired in November. Survation interviewed 20,000 people online across the UK from 20 October to 2 November 2018 in the biggest ever independent Brexit opinion poll, to try to decipher how the country would vote now and why. The fascinating results were revealed live on air and I could clearly see a variety of statistics that retailers should take heed of when thinking about their 2019 retail strategy.

The headline was, if the referendum was re-run, there would be a swing toward remain at 53 per cent to 47 per cent. In terms of the economic outlook, overall 44 per cent think Brexit will be bad for the economy, versus 31 per cent thinking it will be good. This overall national mood of ‘regrexit’ seems borne out by the current economic data. The Gfk consumer confidence index in the UK dropped to -10 in October 2018, as the Brexit impasse affected how consumers felt about the economy despite easing inflationary pressures. This deteriorating consumer confidence is being played out on the high street where we are seeing a continuing stream of store closures – not just because of Brexit, but certainly not helped by it.

In fact, hedge funds have amassed a £1.4bn bet against high streets with economists warning a crucial Christmas period will hinge on a pre- Christmas Brexit deal. The latest footfall data from Springboard shows a two per cent decline in October 2018, a steeper decline than September 2018. So, a clear picture, right? Well, not entirely. The detail of the Channel 4 programme helped to expose the far from unified picture of consumer intention. There appears to be a trend in voting by age group, which is imperative for retailers to note when thinking about their 2019 retail strategy as it’s linked to their financial independence.

To start with, a clear majority of voters aged 54+ would vote to leave again, the percent in favour of leave versus remain is almost identical in every age group upward. Interestingly for pensioners 75+ views are even more hardened with more now in favour of leaving.

In terms of the views of the economic outlook post-Brexit while 45-year-olds and younger now overwhelmingly have a negative view, for 55-64-year-olds it is much tighter. Over a third (34 per cent) think it will be good, versus 40 per cent bad and for 65-74-year-olds a majority think it will be positive, 42 per cent think it will be good, versus 35 per cent bad.

With regard to personal finances, a clear majority of consumers aged 54+ think Brexit will either be good or make no impact to their personal finances. There are two factors behind this; firstly, they are after all ‘Generation Wealth’, with more assets so therefore less likely to be directly impacted by any adverse effects. Additionally, as a majority wanted to vote ‘leave’ anyway, they were clearly unimpressed by what they see as ‘project fear’ from the remain side about some of the reported negative financial impacts.

However, for worried millennials a far different picture emerges. They are more in favour of the EU than ever before. Sixty-seven per cent of 25-34-year-olds would now vote remain, against 56 per cent who voted remain in 2016. Among this age group just 24 per cent think Brexit will be good for the economy versus 50 per cent bad. In terms of their personal financial situation, again the reverse of the older age groups is true. Fourty four per cent of 25-34-year-olds think it will be bad, against 18 per cent good, with 22 per cent thinking it will make no difference. This is perhaps not surprising when you consider they were firmly against Brexit from the start, are less secure in their jobs and have a hampered opportunity of working in Europe.

So what does this mean for retailers? As older consumers are more confident in our ability to forge ahead without EU membership, if a deal is settled, could we see the baby boomers create a mini-boom on the high street? Insulated from any of the more negative personal financial impact of Brexit and with more confidence in the country’s future and their own economic situation, could this lead them to spend more? This demographic is also far more likely to visit bricks and mortar stores. And for millennials worried about their personal financial security as well as the economy, retailers need to entice them to shop. Millennials seek out experiences, which also applies to the way they shop. Retailers need to engage with this audience through the customer journey, making any purchase a positive experience.

An understanding of these varying motivations, and the different demographics, their mindsets and their spending power, can make a big difference to retail strategy. Also, being agile, flexible and able to react quickly to the buying signals, especially in relation to pricing and promotion strategies for millennial audiences to try to entice them to spend, let alone spend more. Just as the outcome of the negotiation won’t satisfy all political parties or a now fractured population, neither will a one-size-fits-all retail strategy. Start planning now to remain relevant to your customer base as we move into 2019.

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Retailers, It’s time to be relevant to consumers

Retailer Blog Photo

What’s happening to the British High Street? It is facing record levels of store closures in the first half of 2018. According to research by PWC, on average, 14 stores a day, 4,400 in the first 6 months, are closing their doors with 85,000 jobs lost in the first 9 months of this year. The industries most affected by the closures are fashion and electrical stores. Not far behind them are pubs and restaurants. There are few brands that haven’t been affected with coffee Shops and ice cream parlours accounting to the small amount of store openings.

As a nation of shoppers, why are we turning our back on the high street?

It is predicated that due to the large amount of choice now in the consumer’s hands the way they shop will change. Online shopping is predicated to account for 25% of non-food sales by 2022 which is a 5% increase on what it is today. The consumer now has the ability to shop across a variety of platforms from the high street, e-commerce, m-commerce and social commerce.

The choice to shop this way will increase through generations that grew up with the internet at their fingertips coming of age, working and having disposable income to spend. The generation that grew up with ordering something in the evening and having it delivered to their door the next day may not see the attraction of the high street. As shops close their closest functioning high street might get further away and less appealing to travel to when after a few clicks their product is brought to their door. The impact of online is a self-fulfilling prophecy and once the heart of a community is gone, it’s very difficult to entice it back as many councils are finding Public Houses, Restaurants are also affected due to digitisation – if you can order Italian food to your door are you going to leave to go to a restaurant? In-Home Leisure – If you have a huge TV/Projector, top of the line speakers, streaming service are you going to pay £30 to go to the cinema? Or go to watch the Football in a pub? Supermarkets interestingly do not seem to be affected at the level, perhaps due to people buying their own food to cook at home in line with changing dietary trends and therefore becoming more conscious of eating out?

The impact of the changes being posed may be too late. So what’s being done?

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

In some locations this is perhaps too late when you consider the vacant properties on the diminishing high street. The PWC research highlights that London has the highest change between closures and openings with Wales having the lowest. The numbers might be big for London but when you consider the size of some of the high streets in Wales compared to those in London -22 shops could be the closure of a whole High Street.

It also does not help those retailers, multiple or independent, with a larger footprint. For stores which anchor the high street such as Debenhams, HoF, M&S etc. the reduction in business rates for these retailers by local authorities, delivers a longer term tangible wealth to the community.

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

What can retailers do for themselves?

The industries that were least affected by the closures such as Ice cream parlours and coffee shops could be down to the public still enjoying the little pleasures in life. It could also be that the brands have realised that consumers are now looking for personalised experiences. Millennials seek out experiences and value experience over material items. Those retailers serving the Instagram generation are offering them locations, products and experiences that are picture worthy and have bragging rights. Acknowledging these trends and the new way people shop are perhaps the key differentiators that have kept them from closure and continue trading successfully.

Although the numbers, for many, paint a negative picture for considered purchases there is still time for them to turn it around. Our research has highlighted that over a third of shoppers still prefer to go to bricks and mortar shops to buy their technology. There are still consumers who want to feel and touch products before purchasing. They are also looking for advice from staff and an immersive experience which some retailers do recognise however sadly many do not and are destined to failure unless they acknowledge and change soon. The investment made in retail by many brands is treatment to this consumer desire.

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First steps for Mothercare: will it save the troubled brand?

Mothercare blog

A couple of weeks ago British retailer Mothercare released its first significant ad campaign in a decade entitled ‘First Steps’ intended to capture those first moments parents experience. This campaign comes following the news that the retailer will close 50 of its 139 stores by June 2019 with 900 potential job losses. This decision is driven by the fact that the longstanding brand experienced pre-tax loss of almost £73 million for the financial year to March 2018 and it’s just announced blooming half-year losses. So will the First Steps campaign assist to turn the retailers’ fortunes round?

The campaign must be applauded for being very ‘real’ -using images and models which resonate perfectly in the ‘real’ world. Avoiding the Instagram perfection and clichés many may be led to believe are indicative of motherhood and parenting, it has a comforting reality of life across any demographic and nationality. However, for me, it doesn’t speak to a wider audience and as a ‘turnaround’ campaign, the message needs to be broader to attract all pockets to come and spend in-store.

The ads are articulated beautifully, drawing on the raw emotion of being a parent and it will resonate with parents or those expecting, no doubt drawing them into or back to the brand. However, the ad seems to have forgotten people who aren’t in the same position, perhaps an aunt, uncle, godparent or friend who has not yet or has no desire to experience parenting, whom therefore may not share the same emotional connection.

They are also potential shoppers, some may argue with more disposable income, who also need to be attracted to the brand to spend. The wider the appeal of the ad, the more it increases the odds to attract shoppers of any kind. Surely, this should be the objective of this desperately needed turnaround campaign which is all about increasing sales.

In the UK the average annual birth rate is 670,000 births (Office of National Statistics) and the market value for this sector is £7.3bn and estimated to grow by 2021 +2.3% in clothing and 4.4% in Footwear (Euromonitor) and research from 2017 indicates that 64% of shoppers prefer to touch and feel products in this category, 48% prefer to research products in-store resulting in 58% of sales created in physical retail (Pragmarket). The opportunity for growth is therefore evident for any retailer in this sector, especially an established brand like Mothercare, as while it’s unlikely that the nation will stop giving birth, people can be influenced where we shop.

The customer experience must reflect the emotional journey the brand takes its audience through in these ads and translate it onto the shop floor. The creative and sentiment that’s applied to the ad, the real and caring traits it communicates must be applied to staff, the store layout, its ranging, staff training and the advice they give to a new and likely tired parent or complete novice when shopping for infants.

A clear message which translates from ATL to the in-store experience is crucial to ensure a clear measurement of ATL and to convert awareness to revenue. A successful ATL may well bring customers back but a poor customer experience may make that crucial first hello, the last.

And here’s the real dichotomy for Mothercare, do they invest more money in the remaining estate to make the shops a truly engaging experience and destination for people or leave them wondering what their role is in the ‘real world’ – I know which strategy my money is on!

For the full article visit The Drum

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

Manchester Blog

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tech industry reactions to the 2018 Budget

PCR Blog Image

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

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

Business rates bill

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

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

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

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

For the full article please visit PCR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the full article please visit Fourth Source

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How do small tech businesses fire up their retail sales?

The Drum Article Blog Picture

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

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

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

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

Get real

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

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

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

Hearts and minds

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

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

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

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

For the full article visit The Drum.

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IFA 2018: Would you like some assistants?

IFA Blog image copy

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

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

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

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

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

8K OLED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retro

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

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

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

Time to get to grips with social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be social

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full article on ERT Online.

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