Monthly Archives: December 2018

Consumers want ‘real people not robots’ from retailers

IPM Blog

A study launched by Gekko titled ‘Service not Sci-fi’, reveals that UK shoppers would rather deal with real people not robots or artificial intelligence when it comes to shopping.

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. 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.

It’s 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.”

To read more visit IPM Bitesize.

To read the full results of our ‘Service not Sci-Fi’ research visit the Gekko Research Page.

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The Drum – ‘Regrexit’ or not, smart targeting never been more important for retailers

Regrexit blog

As 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 the fascinating Channel 4 live debate show, Brexit: What the Nation Really Thinks, which aired in November. Polling and market research agency, Survation interviewed 20,000 people online across the UK from 20 October to 2 November 2018 in the biggest ever independent Brexit opinion poll. If you didn’t see it, according to the poll if the referendum was re-run, there would be a swing toward remain at 53% to 47% – but that’s neither here nor there right now!

What was interesting, with my retail hat on, was how attitudes to the overall economic outlook of the country and people’s personal finances by age group would impact retail strategy planning their 2019. Overall, the study found that 44% think Brexit will be bad for the economy, versus 31% thinking it will be good. This deteriorating consumer confidence is already 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.

When you start to delve deeper into the demographics there is a clear picture emerging among the different age groups – as the age group increases attitude to Brexit, economic outlook and effect on personal finances get more positive. While 45 year olds and younger now overwhelmingly have a negative view of the economy post-Brexit, for 55-64 year olds it is much tighter (34% think it will be good, versus 40% bad) and for 65-74 year olds it swings to positive (42% think it will be good, versus 35% bad).

A clear majority of consumers aged 54+ also 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 and financial independence so therefore less likely to feel they will be adversely impacted. 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. Just 24% think Brexit will be good for the economy versus 50% bad. Meanwhile 44% think it will be bad for their finances, against 18% good. Not surprising when you consider their careers started after the financial crash and they are less secure in their jobs.

So, what does this mean for retailers in developing marketing strategy? Insulated from any of the more negative personal financial impact of Brexit and with more confidence in the country’s future could we see the baby boomers create a mini retail boom?

However, for millennials, worried about their personal financial security as well as the economy, retailers will 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. What is the USP versus Amazon for this digital, increasingly disenfranchised demographic?

Having a distinct strategy for the different demographics and understanding their mindset, spending power and intention will be key. Also, being agile and flexible and able to react quickly to the market and buying signals. 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 unpredictable 2019.

To read the full article visit The Drum.

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Brits want ‘service over sci-fi’ from retailers

The Drum Blog

A study published today by marketing agency Gekko – ‘Service not Sci-fi’ – reveals that UK shoppers would rather deal with real people over robots or artificial intelligence when it comes to shopping.

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

Only 30% said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22% smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16% a virtual reality changing room, 14% augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and only 9% in favour of a talking robot assistant.

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

A third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22%) 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%) 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% 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% 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% of Brits have slammed the phone down during an automated call, as the system didn’t recognise what they were saying. And 47% 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%) 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%) British shoppers would rather speak to a person than an automated system when making a phone enquiry, with almost a quarter (23%) ending up having to complain on social media when their query hasn’t been responded to via the automated service.

Daniel Todaro, managing director 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.”

The survey was conducted by Ginger Comms in December 2018, speaking to a sample of 1,500 shoppers aged 18+ and representative of the UK population.

To read the full article visit The Drum.

To find out more about our ‘Service not Sci-fi’ research please visit our Research page.

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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.”

To find out more about our ‘Service not Sci-fi’ research please visit our Research page.

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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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