Monthly Archives: April 2014

Will Google Glass arrive at retail or is it just a beautiful PR stunt?


We simply cannot escape talk around Google Glass. It’s as ubiquitous as the Beckham’s and their PR allure. Ever since Google Glass hit the media, I feel like it’s an established and viable product as modelled by the curly-haired model in the original promotional photo, which the media are still using.

But despite years of buzz, the consumer is still no closer to adding the glasses to their ever-expanding tech kit. So is Google Glass just a clever PR stunt that refuses to give up, or are we set to see the product reach the hands of those who matter, the consumer?

Google Glass seems to have been everywhere but the shop shelves. Diane von Furstenberg used the product on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, while Virgin Atlantic has tied up with the brand for flight crew to check in passengers on selected trans-Atlantic flights.

Brands want to build partnerships with this newsworthy, futuristic piece of innovation and why wouldn’t they when Google Glass is experiencing a media frenzy? It’s exposure on a scale any business desires, singling out its brand through association as the future now.

But no one has had more positive brand awareness than Google itself, which is why this could all be a bubble about to burst. There are many barriers the brand has to overcome before it’s ready for public consumption.

It is heavily tested and commented on by the BBC’s Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who states: “So far, I’m intrigued by the possibilities that Glass offers, but not convinced that the user interface is up to scratch.”

Doubt clouds Glass sceptics as to the viability of the product in the face of increasing privacy rules and pressure on Google to respect these rules. Even in preliminary testing phases, Google Glass has opened a Pandora’s Box of legal concerns. If it does become the next big thing in wearable technology, what are the ramifications for intellectual property and personal privacy when somebody can secretly film or take a picture of you with, literally, the wink of an eye?

It’s now standard practice to see all manner of things documented online by people when using one hand with a mobile phone; what will happen when they are given glasses that make it possible for them to be recorded with two hands? Google responded by making modifications that would make this harder to do, but hackers will be only too happy to quickly find ways around those measures.

A report out highlights the fears consumers have over privacy issues pertaining to the product. It was found that 72 per cent of Americans cited privacy concerns as the biggest reason for not wanting to wear Glass. Those polled were especially concerned about the possibility of hackers accessing personal data and revealing personal information, including location information, Adweek reported.

That’s not to say I don’t applaud Google for this extravagant teaser campaign. It’s been executed extraordinarily well and it has built up a buzz and anticipation that may explode into fireworks or a flame, leaving us wanting more, but when’s the launch date?

If it does indeed arrive into the retail space, I can only imagine it will be a watered down variant of the present. But the fact that Ray-Ban sunglasses maker Luxottica announced last month that it has sealed a strategic partnership with Google over its Glass eyewear surely only adds fuel to the fire of concerns over privacy intrusion.

Imagine sitting on a train opposite someone who appears to be wearing a regular pair of Ray Bans, when really they’re analysing your data – it’s just not acceptable in a democratic society. Or has democracy gone full circle where the insistence on knowing everything has now come to threaten our right to privacy?

Nonetheless, this innovation, in which ever form it manifests itself, will eventually land in a retailer near you (I hope) and it will need investment in dedicated, knowledgeable brand representatives who can create the right consumer engagement with those cost conscious shopper tribes. This must be a priority if they are to make a connection with consumers and help them understand how this innovation works to enhance their day-to-day lives, to leave them with a memorable impression of both the product that will lead to a sale.

Whether Google Glass comes into the retail space or not, one thing is for sure: this has been an unstoppable PR masterpiece.

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The state we’re in

As the industry awaits a decision about the proposed £4 bn Carphone Warehouse/Dixons merger, which would effectively see one retailer gain a monopoly in the market, it seems an appropriate moment to reflect on the state of the electrical retailing industry.

Expenditure in the electronics industry is set to increase in 2014. Last week saw Vodafone announce that it is to create 1,400 jobs across the UK by opening 150 stores in 2014, an impressive feat against a challenging economic backdrop.

This is in sharp contrast to developments on London’s Tottenham Court Road, once regarded as the place to go for any kind of electronics, where we’re seeing so many major brand stores closing their doors.

Did these brands put enough into offering every customer the best possible shopping experience? It could be argued that for these retailers the importance of creating an appealing shopping experience was forgotten.

Developments on Tottenham Court Road highlight the importance of treating every consumer that enters a store as a potential customer.

This especially hits home when the costs involved in marketing campaigns to attract that potential customer are considered, along with the major overheads needed to keep stores open.

According to research commissioned by Gekko earlier this year, 53 per cent of UK consumers regard electronics as investment purchases, with almost 20 per cent buying electronic products due to brand status.

The research also found that 53 per cent of UK shoppers do their research online before making a purchase in-store.

With so many consumers dedicating time to online research, it’s vital that retail brands provide an appealing digital experience and keep their website serviced with the most up-to-date information about their products.

The research also found that for high-ticket electrical items, 53 per cent of consumers want to touch, feel and experience the product to ensure that they are getting value for money in their purchase.

In order to attract shoppers to their stores, retailers must ensure that the in-store experience runs seamlessly alongside the shopping experience online.

When consumers walk through the door, the branding, feel and format of the store must feel familiar to the consumer.

A positive consumer experience helps to drive the value for money criteria by making consumers feel special, added to by attentive staff that aren’t pushy, but know how to sell based on the needs of the customer.

The shop floor must be ready for different shoppers, for whom value means different things. Understanding the shopper will help to open up the right channels engagement for the brand.

Every major electrical brand out there wants to appeal to the broadest demographic possible, and most businesses will spend vast sums of money in order to achieve this goal.

However, when a brand is sold through a third party retailer, the brand has less control, and this is where the vital role of field marketers comes to the fore.

It’s crucial for electrical goods retailers to have brand ambassadors in third party stores who understand their brand, how to achieve the connection sale and are equipped with the knowledge and training to provide impartial and factual advice about the benefits of their products.

This human element is vital; it is the reason many customers will visit the stores, to have a two-way conversation with an expert and receive guidance in making a decision is key to driving sales.

Field marketing plays an important element in making the customer journey more controlled and profitable for brands.

With all of the closures on Tottenham Court Road, it’s easy to assume that while still being sold via a third party store, brands had a lot of control over the customer journey.

The importance of an appealing brand and shopping experience which engages the consumer both online and offline cannot be underestimated.


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Balancing technology with the human touch


With shoppers increasingly relying on their smartphones and tablets to research, compare and buy goods online, all sectors need to be considering their ecommerce strategies. The DIY sector is no exception and the traditional ‘out of town’ retailers are having to adapt their strategies in order to succeed in the marketplace. It would in fact appear that the era of big box retail dominance is coming to an end. Over the past 12 months there has been considerable comment on how major DIY brands including Wickes, Homebase and B&Q, which traditionally operate massive 100,000 sq ft stores, have or are at least considering the downsizing of their physical properties and moving  towards smaller, more interactive spaces. In light of these developments, it seems an opportune moment to explore the possibilities for retailers in the DIY sector looking to shake up their spaces and create truly effective in-store experiences.

The DIY sector is undergoing seismic changes, with everything from the economy to the weather being highlighted as the reason for the downturn in sales. However, while it’s fair to say that big box DIY retailers are finding trading tough, they’re certainly not about to disappear. They are simply moving towards smaller formats and investing more heavily in their online retail presence. In order to thrive in this changed landscape, DIY brands need to ask themselves; what can be done in order to optimise the entire purchase journey for customers?

One of the biggest challenges facing big box retailers is the increasing desire to purchase away from the traditional point of sale. With more and more consumers choosing to buy online, the trick here for DIY brands is to integrate their brick-and-mortar spaces with their online stores. Omnichannel retail models are the order of the day for DIY brands attempting to integrate digital and offline sales channels.

Another major factor in the changing DIY marketplace is the rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets. Consumers are now armed with technology ready to price-compare every product, and are visiting stores looking for deals rather than making one-stop, fill-the-trolley trips. B&Q has been doing particularly well in this area with both its creative mobile app and in-store wi-fi playing key roles in its omnichannel strategy.  Apps are effective tools to utilise online and mobile techniques to drive people in-store, and the customer interaction works well to create a wholly rounded customer journey. However, there is a lot more scope for B&Q and other DIY brands to be doing more in this arena in order to underline the integral part played by in-store communication during the purchase journey. It would be refreshing to see these retailers embracing technology more wholly and implementing regular technology-fuelled in-store activity into their marketing strategies.

Using technology to connect with customers in stores is hugely important, but human interaction and face-to-face communication with a knowledgeable product specialist continues to trump even the most advanced mobile and digital strategies. In other words, while sophisticated online strategies can certainly work hard to increase footfall in DIY stores, positive human interaction on the shop floor is ultimately the most important part of the customer journey. Both the retailers and the owners of the brands sold in-store should therefore be considering their approach to providing product training and brand ambassadors to help drive sales. Although the internet offers unlimited scope for shoppers to research and compare prices, the average shopper will be looking for advice, inspiration and guidance in-store. Using specially trained brand ambassadors who are briefed on your target audience and the brand messages to interact with people in a knowledgeable and engaging way can be an invaluable way of getting customers to consider products they may otherwise have overlooked.

With DIY stores’ footfall in decline, the opportunities for brands to connect with consumers on a personal level within their retail spaces are becoming fewer and farther between. It’s clear that interactive and engaging marketing strategies along with downsized physical stores will be key for DIY brands looking to prosper in 2014.

London’s Wearable Tech Show 2014


Last week saw London’s Olympia host the UK’s first ever Wearable Technology Conference and Expo dedicated to showcasing the latest developments in smartwatches, wristbands and other wearable devices. With speakers from Microsoft, Google, Samsung and Intel, the show promised a lot, but did it live up to the hype?

The show floor at Olympia reflected an industry that is still in its early days with a clear split between sport and leisure wearable gadgets. The most commercially successful wearable tech category so far is that of sports-focused devices, and the plethora of health and fitness-trackers on display at the show underlined the consumer demand for these products. Wearable tech innovations are helping athletes – both amateur and professional – to improve their performances by creating data while they train, allowing the user to identify areas that require improvement and extra focus. The recent Winter Olympics highlighted these developments as we saw athletes from around the globe trying out a variety of devices in an attempt to gain an edge over the competition. Users of sport-based gadgets certainly know what they want from their devices.

On the other side of the coin, the majority of leisure-focused wearable gadgets like Google Glass and vrAse have not yet hit the open market. This category of devices needs to be refined and defined for the consumer before it penetrates the market, a point which was very evident at the show. The battle for domination in the wearable tech industry is heating up with the major announcement from Google last week about its plans to establish a bigger presence in the industry. The search giant announced Android Wear, a version of its operating system designed specifically for wearable devices. The effects of this move by Google will be felt across the sector by chip makers, electronics firms and fashion labels working on wearable gadgets this year.

All of this is taking place against a backdrop of privacy and security concerns among UK consumers. The market share remains firmly up for grabs and the next twelve months will tell an interesting tale.

In order to thrive in the wearable tech industry brands need to place more emphasis on the quality of the design of the products, with much more input from the creative and design side required. Brands will also need to explore more effective ways for users to interact with the devices. Whether this will be achieved by taking voice activation or recognition to the next level, or through an entirely different approach remains to be seen. We can expect a different state of affairs at London’s Wearable Tech Show 2015. Watch this space.

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