Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Microsoft Surface Book has broken the copycat mold


Over the past decade, the importance of showcasing innovation in both product and design has become a pain point within the tech industry in which many have not alleviated. In a market where competition is high, but opportunities are slim, brands have struggled to break the copycat mold and come up with something different to set them apart from the rest. Brands are often keen in following the footsteps of Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive, such as Huawei’s iPhone 6 look-alike Honour 6 device which unashamedly has no original design features, however, it is refreshing to see Microsoft engage in an original industrial design philosophy with the recent launch of its Surface Book.

Understanding that design along with functionality drives desire, Microsoft has achieved the right equilibrium. The Surface Book’s sleek craftsmanship, accurate and responsive pen and touch support, as well as being twice as powerful as the Macbook Pro, has proved innovation in product and design is not just confined to only one brand. The laptop’s advanced display technology makes it not just attractive to look at, but natural and fluid to write on. Together, Surface’s creative director, Ralf Groene and Windows 10 devices head Panos Panay, have invented something new, desirable, and premium, giving the brand a new lease of life in the laptop category.

Other brands should take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book. Consumers are starting to see through the usual copycat formula as demonstrated when a new iPad launches, sending the rest of the tech world into tablet production overload. If brands want to establish themselves within a competitive market, it is about creating an identity that they can call their own, or risk being overshadowed by competing brands.

Whilst innovative design is always important, product functionality is also a game changer. Striking the right balance between the two, Microsoft’s new product launch has hit the ground running. Already running on 110 million devices worldwide and Windows 10 is off to the fastest start in history, could this be Microsoft’s time to shine and set the agenda for the next design-led tech trend? Maybe.


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Lifestyle benefits are key to selling the Connected Home

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Recent research from McKinsey claims that the Internet of Things (IoT) offers a potential economic impact of $4 trillion to $11 trillion a year by 2025, equating to 11 per cent of the world’s economy. Now, that’s surely a reason to get involved?

Every technology brand is acutely aware of the need to create innovative connected products. Some are more aware than others, such as Hoover with Wizard, the UK’s first fully connected kitchen app that enables you to control and view the status of appliances on the go.

IoT devices, once thought of as the preserve of premium brands, are now becoming the norm in retail, with many shoppers expecting more connectivity in their appliances and devices. Hoover is not alone in giving consumers ultimate control at realistic prices. Look at the beautifully designed Hive Active Heating 2 with a range of new features and a family of complementary products.

The demand for connected products in the UK is growing. Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation identified that 59 per cent of people agreed or strongly agreed that it would be useful to control devices in the home when out and about. Consider the possibilities this offers your consumers and the connection sales IoT offers your store for those upgrading one or many devices. A massive 70 per cent would also value the safety and security features a smart home would offer, increasing the opportunity to range complementary products, offering a choice to consumers expecting more.

When selling connected devices, it’s easy to over-complicate the “how it works” element from a technical perspective. Too much focus on explaining the reliance on network connections and sharing data may confuse the customer and worry them unnecessarily. To sell smart-home solutions without over-complication, the focus should be kept on the practical benefits – namely being convenient, safe and fun.

The ways in which this technology should be introduced to customers is to focus on the lifestyle benefits offered by your new connected product.

All retailers must consider the 50 per cent of shoppers who would buy smart products for their home if cost weren’t an issue. Likewise, retailers need to consider that 39 per cent of shoppers are worried about the privacy issues associated with IoT. As a new category, shoppers need reassurance that the products they are considering will truly benefit their lifestyles and are worth the extra cost, and that they will not put their privacy at risk. This reassurance needs to be reinforced on the shopfloor by staff, making training on IoT products a priority when entering this new category. If your staff can talk with authority about connected products, you will see consumer knowledge, and ultimately sales, improve.

The IoT is about innovation. What better way to market your store’s expertise in IoT than through targeted digital campaigns to your customer base via smartphone and email. Continue the customer journey from online to in-store with working digital displays and staff on hand equipped with wi-fi-connected tablets to explain and demonstrate the benefits of IoT products. Consider also inviting consumers to try interacting with connected devices from their own smartphone, further enhancing the customer experience. It will also demonstrate the ease of use and spark their imagination to consider how they can immerse themselves and their home in the IoT.

Brands like Hoover and Hive demonstrate that innovation need not be at a premium when integrating IoT devices into your home. With a number of brands adding to the already growing category, ranging IoT products will put you ahead of the curve, perhaps enabling the IoT to become potentially more than 11 per cent (forecast) of your total revenue.

Importantly though, the IoT remains a new category that can overwhelm shoppers. Training staff to speak with authority and concentrate on the lifestyle benefits created by the products will transform an unknown category into a staple for your store.


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Why Shopping In-Store is in our DNA

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Whilst online shopping is big business for all brands, in today’s developed omni-channel world, the need to physically immerse ourselves into a brand is still really important.

When we go to a shop, we like to choose our fashion purchases carefully, weigh up our options and try them on, or at least appreciate that it may fit based on its cut and quality. Our research shows that around three-quarters of consumers say the ability to touch, feel, choose and compare products before they buy them is a key benefit of shopping in a physical store. More than a transactional experience, shopping is a social activity that we like to share with others. Over half (53.25%) of shoppers like to take their friends, partners, or family shopping – either as a social occasion or to help decide what to buy.

An open, sociable atmosphere can be harnessed by trained and amiable staff that consider the needs for shoppers that not only want to hang out with friends, but also want to discuss their ideas before making a purchase decision. Indeed, over a third (39.20%) of shoppers say they value advice from in-store staff whilst shopping. Brand staff need to be collaborative with shopping groups to not only help with purchase goals but also to create an environment that these social groups will want to return to.

To support the shopping process, brands need to offer an engaging in-store experience that accentuates the need for a social environment and immerses the shopper into the brand. When it comes to buying clothes that require a careful decision, almost three quarters (73%) are likely to go in-store. Fashion choices especially evoke discussion, debate and positive emotions amongst shoppers as they compare clothes and spend. The physical shop still provides that connection with your brand and instant association and buzz that people need to become a follower of your brand.

As shoppers we like, especially for those special luxury purchases, immerse ourselves in the total brand experience from the plush carpet to the lighting and customer service which add to the customer journey and make that product seem exceptionally good value in comparison to high street brands.

A lot has been said about the retail environment changing due to the influx of channels to engage with, but in many ways the deep rooted desire to shop for apparel is still the same. We still need the physical experience of shopping. More than a pastime for many – it’s an intrinsic part of life and brands become engrained in the fabric of our lives when it comes to what we choose to wear.


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Brands should take an omnichannel approach this Black Friday

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As we lead up to the festive peak season and retailers are once again preparing for this year’s Black Friday weekend, the omnichannel experience is still a fundamental part of retail strategy. There has already been a number of sources speculating that this year’s sales will break all the records set last year, including predictions that online sales will surpass the £1bn mark, up from £810m in 2014. Notably, the number of consumers shopping online for Black Friday deals is set to increase to 30%, up from 8% last year.

Clearly, we’re beginning to see the growing importance of online leading up to Christmas and Black Friday, itself made popular by Amazon, whose recent Prime event similarly guaranteed orders and revenue. Although last year’s peak season generated a 10% increase in high street footfall compared to previous years, consumers increasingly seem to be going online for their Black Friday deals.
However, despite the growth of online sales, recent research from Gekko shows that nearly three quarters (74.2%) of shoppers benefit from the touch, feel and physical comparison of products when making purchase decisions. This is especially the case with high ticket electrical items such as a smart TVs or washing machines, where 67% of shoppers are likely or very likely to buy in a physical store, compared with only 46% who would consider buying online. Moreover, more than half (56.8%) of consumers prefer to head onto the high street so that they can seek advice when making a considered purchase.

In an increasingly connected retail landscape, in-store retail sales are gradually feeling more of an impact from online, especially with smart phones offering shoppers a way to price check in their pocket. Barclays recently predicted that 42% of all retail sales will involve a mobile device in some way over the next ten years, clearly showing how brands will need to integrate their online and retail offerings to create consistent branding and the omnichannel experience we now expect.

This peak period, brands need to ensure that their sales and promotions take into account the omnichannel nature of retail today. While online sales will certainly be a focus this year in light of increasing numbers of dedicated online consumers, brands should not neglect the legions of shoppers that will descend on the high street, often using their smart phone to ensure that the deal their considering isn’t cheaper online.

Making sure that your branding in store matches that of your online offering will ensure that the 54% of shoppers that like to research products online before buying in store will continue their customer journey to buy your brand. Placing brand ambassadors in store to support your peak promotions are proven to assist customers looking to purchase considered items, supporting the majority of consumers who want to experience a product or ask advice before making a decision.

Whether buying online or in store, Black Friday is guaranteed to make the headlines this year, either for record sales or for more riots in supermarkets over discount appliances – perhaps it will be both. Black Friday is now a retail institution, which begins the Christmas peak shopping period for both retailers and brands.

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