Monthly Archives: January 2022

The Future of Video Game Retailers

Video game stores have for some years faced the dilemma of how to diversify their offering to stay afloat in a market evolving to become primarily a digital one. Since the launch of the “next generation of consoles” back in 2006, digital downloadable games have been available through the marketplaces of Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo on their respective consoles. However, initially, the list of games available to download was quite limited which benefited retailers as it would not take away business from them. 

Fast forward to 2013 and the next generation of consoles were released. The release of these new consoles brought a brand new, more reliable system in place to download full video games over the internet. The ability to download full games happened on the previous generation however, numerous factors attributed to its rather low popularity as it did not have the stability and the large selection of games as it does on the console’s successor. 

GAME’s game-changing new direction

The PS4 & Xbox One were game-changers in driving interest in digital games. This meant retailers had to diversify their offerings to provide more than just consoles and video games. For example, GAME is now selling Gaming PCs and a lot more accessories for all gaming platforms. On top of this, they provide access in-store to the Belong Arenas which are equipped with all of the latest consoles and gaming PCs with room for around 6 people to game. GAME is a prime example of a company successfully diversifying its business model to become a more experienced/service-based company. This is due to the nature of the video game market and its continuous push towards the all-digital era.

The new direction GAME is taking features a better value proposition. Martyn Gibbs, Chief Executive Officer recently described  BELONG, the Group’s esports and experience-based gaming proposition as “core to our transformation strategy and we continue to expand the business through the opening of larger BELONG gaming arenas while improving our GAME Retail offer to fully capitalise on the strong growth potential in the esports market.” (Waller-Davies, 2018)

This has proven to be successful in driving footfall to their stores with the gaming arenas as proven by the positive recent trading results.

COVID’s accelerating impact on digital transformation

Clearly, a huge impact on the video game retail industry as with all retail was the dramatic impact of COVID. Not solely due to the fact stores were closed, more so due to the change in lifestyle, most people had to adapt to. Logan Plant from IGN described COVID-19 as “not an instigator for the rise of digital media, but simply an accelerator of a trend we’ve seen take shape throughout the last console generation.” (Plant, 2021). Working from home became the norm for 1+ years and subsequently, a lot of businesses had to change how they operated to take advantage of the customers/consumers being stuck at home.

The impact of COVID was a record-breaking year for digital sales of video games. Sony also revealed that nearly 63 per cent of its “full game” sales for the 2020 calendar year came via digital downloads rather than games sold on discs at retail. 

As a result of COVID’s accelerating impact, it is important to reevaluate the current proposition and business direction of video games retailers. The current moves console developers are making into the all-digital era are having a dramatic impact on the performance of bricks and mortar retailers. A significant development happened in 2020 when the latest consoles were released (PS5 & Xbox Series X). These new consoles were released with a cheaper variant; a disk tray-free model with a cheaper price tag available from launch. This highlights the increasing dominance of the digital era and the ongoing decline of physical sales.

Owen Good from Polygon described it in stark terms: “The implication is clear: Video game fans, stuck at home, with the ability to make one-click purchases for entertainment to pass time, will do so in amounts up to the price of a full game.” (Good, 2020)

As an avid Gamer myself who has been a loyal customer of GAME since I could remember my weekends used to involve regular trips to pick up a new game or the latest console at the time. Interacting and talking with knowledgeable staff members was a huge part of the experience.

Embracing an experience-centric playbook

Despite knowledgeable in-store staff that can assist and support the customer journey, the gaming industry has changed to be a primarily digital one. However, despite this reality, there’s still a significant percentage of customers purchasing physical copies of video games. Yet the online giants such as Amazon have further eroded this market, offering next day delivery on the same selection of physical video games that high street retailers offer at a discounted price. 

The same situation is happening with Gamestop, in an article covering which companies would Amazon effect, it stated Gamestop “historically has made its money by serving as the middleman, but the game publishing industry’s move toward downloads and away from discs and cartridges is increasingly making the venue less of a destination for gamers.” (Brumley, 2019).

This of course reduces the need to pop into town and purchase a game. Additionally, on top of the physical video game competitors, each of the gaming platforms also have their own store integrated into the console where you can purchase digital copies of any game on that platform. Digital games usually have a higher RRP, however, they are usually heavily discounted during sales.

In conclusion, it’s clear to see that for retail stores to drive more footfall they need to reposition themselves and expand what they offer as a business. GAME have taken this in their stride and expanded their traditional offering of physical Video Games and Consoles to offer an immersive customer experience including VR, the opportunity to play video games with your friends in the Belong arenas, purchase fully built gaming PC’s along with the necessary accessories and gaming merchandise such as POP Vinyls or plushies. It has been proven that GAME’s new direction has driven footfall and has been profitable for them too. In order to win in the future and remain relevant, it’s time for video games retailers to embrace an ‘experience-centric’ playbook.

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Why consumer electronics retailers must develop a new ‘experience-centric’ playbook

The phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ has certainly proved the case with in-store electronics retailing. The category has faced some unprecedented challenges over the past two years. However reports of the demise of bricks and mortar retailing have proved greatly exaggerated. Experience-starved customers have voted with their feet and returned to stores in droves after the various lockdowns.

In the ‘considered purchase’ space – purchases made with significant financial or emotional thought – there is simply no match for the timeless ability of an in-store experience to engage all the senses and generate sales. This is particularly the case for consumer electronics – a category with such a high spend on key items and technical questions that need to be answered.

Mind the knowledge gap

We recently investigated the pandemic’s impact on ‘considered purchases’ in a research project called ‘Mind the Knowledge Gap’. Gekko surveyed experiences across several key retail categories in a study of 2,000 consumers, conducted by OnePoll. The categories studied included: Consumer electronics, homeware, baby & child, gaming, home improvement, clothing & apparel. 48% of respondents revealed they had made a considered purchase during the pandemic in the CE category. It was second only to DIY with 50%. However the research also revealed there is no time for complacency. The study showed that electronics retailers had lost out on some significant revenue due to poor advice during this period. 1 in 4 (24%) were put off making a purchase they had gone in-store to make, with 11% actually walking out of the store. This equates to £3.3bn in lost revenue for the category over the past 12 months alone. In fact of all the categories surveyed, shoppers in this category reported having some of the worst advice. This of course isn’t to say a poor experience was universal or even the norm. Indeed 60% said they had received ‘excellent or good advice in store’ overall, highlighting the benefit of human interaction and face-to-face sales. But the point is small improvements in advice can lead to big gains financially. With lost sales during the period and rising commodity and transport costs impacting the bottom line, this is an area that is relatively easy to fix.

Golden opportunity

The truth is £3.3bn could be a drop in the ocean compared to what could be achieved. 37% of shoppers in the CE category revealed they would be prepared to spend more if they received excellent and knowledgeable in-store advice, indicating a golden opportunity is there to be grabbed. This compared with 30% of shoppers in the home improvement category and 27% in homeware/ home furnishings and 21% in clothing and apparel. The study also unearthed something of a blueprint for success for electronic retailers. Consumers revealed the top factors driving a considered purchase. Number one was the ‘ability to see and touch a product’, according to 58% of respondents. Price promotion was second, rated important by 56% of respondents. This was followed by ‘great advice’ rated important by 37% of respondents and then an effective product demonstration (28%).

Gen Z

Additionally the research highlights another area for optimism for electronic retailers. That is in the behaviour of the younger generations. 18-24 year olds – known as Gen Z – are more interested in consumer electronics than any other category. 52% revealed they would be prepared to spend more if given better advice. Encouragingly for the future of physical retail, Gen Z are most likely to seek out great advice in store (45%) versus an average of 38% and are more likely to find staff knowledgeable across categories. They are also the most likely out of all ages to appreciate product demos (39%) against a 29% average across all ages. Finally 1 in 2 Gen Z’ers (52%) and 38% of Millennials will spend more for a good experience in store across all categories – crucial for the development of experiential retail. So how to respond? I think there are three key actionable take outs for consumer electronics retailers.

1) Invest in experts

Our research highlights the timeless appeal of a positive engagement with an in-store expert in CE. While we have spent so much of the past year and a half shopping online – it is clear online alone is no replacement for the experience and interaction of trained advisors. This is particularly the case in a category where more of us are prepared to spend more. They are consistently the best way to influence and convert a sale of a considered purchase item. Ensure they are on hand and fully trained to answer any question your curious customers may have. While some are struggling, the retailers with a real customer first mentality are succeeding. Every person that walks through the door should be viewed as a potential customer, an influencer, someone who will talk about you positively through their experience and tell others in person, online or on social media. Not viewed as just another body to ‘deal’ with. The benefits to the business can be significant.

2) Engage the senses and think price

An expert’s role is important but they can’t operate in isolation. As our study showed, the number one factor driving a considered purchase is the ability to see and touch a product. Price promotion and a great demo were also high on the list. So when it comes to physical retail and considered purchases, it is vital to engage all the senses and create a joined up experience leading the customer to the checkout. After all this desire to engage all the senses has only been heightened during the long lockdowns we have all endured with so much mind numbing time spent in front of screens. So creating a real retail theatre is vital. Good lighting, a price promotion clearly on display, ensuring customers can interact with the product when they want and of course having the expert on hand to answer questions. It may seem simple but it is worth revisiting your customer experience strategy. Start with a genuine audit of your brands or retail estate to ensure all the senses are being fully engaged.

3) Joined up brand experience

While the thirst for the physical store experience endures, it is not about going back to 2019. The genie is now completely out of the bottle for ecommerce with even the most hardened luddites now comfortable with online search and discovery. The smart strategy is now ensuring the experience is joined up and that we better understand the drivers of the online/offline experience. In our research a conclusive 85% of shoppers said they are now doing online research before making a considered purchase in-store. Belying any remaining stereotypes, the older age groups were more likely to go online first. 89% of 55-64 would research online first. Interestingly, 69% said a well synchronised online and offline experience would make them more likely to make a considered purchase. Brands need to therefore ensure they have consistency across the full spectrum of online touchpoints, including search, social and display advertising and in-store. How does the experience feel to a customer and how is this then prompting a likely sale? Reports of the demise of in-store retail have thankfully proved premature. But while we have emerged blinking into the sunlight and luckily still standing after this period, the world we now observe is changed. Indeed survival going forward is never guaranteed and really never was in the fast paced consumer electronics category. To succeed we need to develop a new ‘experience-centric playbook’ utilising the best that a joined up in-store experience can offer; the right experts on hand to complement an experience that engages all the senses. One that is seamless and joined up with the online world of discovery that led us to the store. As we look forward to a better year, there’s all to play for. Let’s go for it.

To read the full article please visit PCR

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

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Truth Matters: How to Appeal to Savvy Gen Z Shoppers

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, an independent study estimated that Gen Z’s direct and indirect spending power reached up to $143 billion. This generation is now at a level making brands and retailers alike stand up and take note. It is also a generation motivated by different factors, unforgiving of poor service, and experience hungry. Brands need to evolve to remain relevant for this new powerful audience of consumers, yet crucially not alienate existing audiences. So how could you go about surfing the fine line? 

1. Gen Z are the most information-hungry consumers

Recent research conducted on 2000 consumers, looked at what influences types of shoppers in making a ‘considered purchase’. These are transactions that are made with significant financial or emotional thought. It exposed the fact that brands across some of the top retail categories are potentially missing out on close to £15bn in in-store revenue in the past year, due to poor in-person advice.

Encouragingly for the future of physical retail, the research revealed Gen Z are most likely to seek out great advice in store (45%) versus an average of 38% and are more likely to find staff knowledgeable across categories. They are also the most likely out of all ages to appreciate product demos (39%) against a 29% average across all ages. In fact, 1 in 2 Gen Z’ers (52%) and 38% of Millennials will spend more for a good experience in-store across all categories – crucial for the development of experiential retail. So it’s clear that retailers and brands need to be innovating sufficiently to appeal and to tap into this growing market and appeal to the core differentiators of Gen Z.

They expect accurate information and immediacy and it’s this audience that is creating the benchmark which all brands and retailers need to meet to engage a digital-savvy audience. The ‘try hard’ element isn’t cool either, as this is easily spotted, so keep it breezy, intuitive, and functional with Gen Z.

2. Profit over provenance will switch younger generations off your brand

The fact that this generation is more values-driven is critical to real engagement. Making it clear why your product is worth that much, who made it, and how it was made, and under what conditions are critical consideration factors. Bear in mind the generation of Greta Thunberg will do their research, be vocal and active if you get it wrong. According to research from IPSOS, 40% of Gen Z said they will actually boycott brands, compared with 16% of Millennials. 

The world has changed and ‘profit over provenance’ is a surefire way to switch younger generations off of your brand. A brand’s politics are also an important influencer of your brand appeal with this generation. The recent creation of Facebook’s parent company, Meta, was clearly driven more by finances than branding, only to protect its share price. This was on the back of poor publicity hitting its cornerstone brand, further turning off younger generations. Research from Statista from 2020 revealed the waning interest in Facebook among Gen Z. It came behind Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, and Snapchat when asked which platform could you least do without. After all, while Gen Zers may have a Facebook profile, they don’t think that Facebook speaks to them or their followers.

3. Heritage won’t be enough – price and functionality will

This generation in question are considered consumers and aren’t easily fooled. Gen Z have a shrewd approach to not only their own finances but also evaluating the true value of what they are buying. This critical consideration of a brand’s values means that brands must work harder if they are to succeed.

Just like those bygone brands that died with their aging fan base, the appeal of your brand can not be purely based on your heritage. This means nothing to certain age groups, especially in the CE category where digital natives are unlikely to have nostalgic sentiments to old tech. That TV brand they remember their grandparents having isn’t going to appeal. They may think it’s an outdated brand and, moreover, it’s highly likely they don’t even watch linear TV. Any premium messaging you apply may not appeal either as the functionality is more important than the sleekness of look. Indeed, our recent research showed that a good price promotion was the most important consideration for Generation Z in the considered purchase space. 

Gen Z want brands to give them what they want at a price they can afford and that has been made responsibly. Brands need to work hard to communicate and demonstrate this so that it resonates with the psyche of a younger generation.

4. A synchronized experience is key

As the research has conclusively shown, 85% of shoppers are now doing online research before making a considered purchase in-store. In fact, 84% of Gen Z shoppers said a well synchronized online and offline experience would make them more likely to make a considered purchase, increasing the need for a brand to lay out the customer journey clearly to appeal to these shoppers. Think customer-, not platform-first, and ensure there is a seamless journey from discovery, research to purchase. How consistent is the brand experience and how can you better enhance the experience and make the sale? The digital native traits of this generation mean that you just can’t cut it with old websites and apps.

The approach should be that every person who visits your website and then walks through the door of a shop is given a joined-up experience and is viewed as a potential customer and influencer. Someone who will talk about you positively through their experience and tell others in person, online, or on social media and is not viewed as just another body to ‘deal’ with.

Belying the stereotypes, it is clear the generation who most welcome expert brand advice is Gen  Z. Indeed, as our research indicates the right advice can lead to younger customers willingly spending more. However, if you favour profit over provenance they will be turned off, and be more than willing to boycott your brand. Heritage is also less of a factor for this generation and loyalty will need to be delivered through the value and functionality you can offer, not some mythical appeal. A joined-up and seamless experience online and offline is also now an absolute must for brands and retailers to survive in a changing market. It’s now about making the investment to do so and implement a new experience-centric playbook. This is the way to appeal to Gen Z and indeed all generations. After all, these younger pioneers are creating the benchmark which all brands and retailers need to meet to engage a modern digital-savvy audience.

To read the full article please visit Branding Magazine

Photo by Ali Pazani

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