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The Great British retail take off: 70% of consumers plan significant return to High Street

There is a huge desire to get back to the High Street, according to a new survey by Gekko on consumer shopping intentions when lockdown ends. 70% of people are planning on visiting stores as much, or more than pre-pandemic when they reopen in April with only 2% of respondents saying they wouldn’t return to the High Street. However nearly half of shoppers want reduced store capacity to continue due to coronavirus still being in circulation.

Pent up demand
The research identifies a huge desire and pent up demand to return to the High Street with key motivators being the ability to physically interact with products and have an enjoyable experience. When asked what makes people want to return to the High Street, 62% said it was the ability to see, hold and try a product, 53% support the High Street, while 52% miss the ability to browse. The same number, 52% reported the sheer enjoyment of shopping as a key factor in returning. In terms of shops they were looking forward to visiting, nearly three quarters (73%) of people were looking forward to returning to a clothes stores, 38% to garden/DIY stores and 23% to technology stores. Men are 3 times more excited about visiting tech stores compared to women. Meanwhile 24% of consumers are planning a shopping splurge when lockdown eases with 18-24 year olds the most likely to splash out (40%).

Covid safety measures
With Covid nerves still very much apparent, 86% of respondents don’t want shopping to return to exactly the way it was pre-pandemic. Nearly half of respondents (49%) want reduced store capacity to continue, which will be at odds with retailers’ desire to attract the masses back in-store. 61% want to keep hand sanitizer points and nearly a third (31%) want more click and collect. However only 11% said they wanted limited contact with goods to stay, reinforcing the fact that people like to ‘try before you buy’. For the 30% of Brits planning to visit stores less, COVID safety concerns were the most cited reason.

Changed shopping habits
While online has benefited greatly from the pandemic, the research also identified that supporting local businesses is high on consumers’ priorities. Over a third (35%) of respondents revealed they have purchased from a local or independent store that they would not have done pre-pandemic. Over half (52%) of men and 49% of women have been more loyal to their local high street stores. Younger people are independent stores’ most supportive group online, with 47% of 18-24 year olds responding saying that they shopped with them. Interestingly 38% would use new online skills to research an item online and then buy it instore supporting people’s wishes to get back to the High Street.

According to Daniel Todaro, Managing Director of Gekko: “With light now appearing at the end of the tunnel, it is even more important to understand how consumer behaviour may have changed, what people are now used too, and what they are excited about when it comes to returning to physical retail. Encouragingly, our research shows despite some less than favourable predictions, the demand for physical retail remains strong. The research shows that absence makes the heart grow fonder with consumers missing the ability to see, hold and try products and the sheer enjoyment that sensory pleasure brings, with online unable to replace this experience. However consumers remain cautious at this stage with a preference for measures to be in place. As the vaccine rollout continues and lockdown eases, retailers will hope these concerns will fade away.”

About the research -The online survey of 541 consumers was carried out by Gekko in February.

To find out more about our survey research please visit our website.

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Out Of Office – Treat Bouquet

We have a creative and vibrant team here at Gekko and we wanted to take a moment to showcase their talents and skills when they are out of the office. We hope that their hobbies and interests could give you some ideas of what to do whilst we all wait for restrictions to lift and for life to get back to normal.

With Mother’s Day on the horizon we wanted to show you how Paige, from our Head Office Team, makes fantastic treat bouquets. Paige has put together a simple ‘how to guide’ so that you can make your own ahead of the big day on March 14th. Visit our Instagram Page for some step by step images.

Don’t worry if you can’t get hold of the items Paige uses, she has also suggested substitutes that you might be able to find around the house.

You will need; 

Bouquet box or Tissue box

Wooden Skewers or something similar

Sticky take or a hot glue gun

Floral foam or polystyrene

Favourite Treats or small gifts

Tissue paper

A bow or a ribbon

  1. Create the base of the bouquet 

You will need a bouquet or presentation box but if you cannot get hold of one of these, you could try using a tissue box or another small empty box.

Place tissue paper into the box and arrange it to suit your arrangement, place a piece of floral foam or a block of polystyrene, from packaging from within a parcel, into the bottom of the box.

Top Tip!

If you are worried about it falling maybe try adding something heavy to the bottom of the box i.e some pebbles or marbles.

2. Build your bouquet structure

Find your favourite treats, ensure there is a variety of sizes to make the best looking bouquet you can. Once you have chosen your favourites, using sticky tape or a glue gun attach the wooden skewers to the back of the wrapper. Larger treats may need 2 skewers to support them.

Top Tip!

You could use sweets treats in the bouquet or if you would prefer you could use smaller gifts such as hand cream or even add in polaroid photos to personalise it.

3. Arrange your bouquet

Think about where you would like to place your treats, but remember to be mindful of the weight and distribute them to ensure it doesn’t topple over. 

Take some time to place the skewers into the box and cut, when needed, to suit your design.

Top Tip!

Place smaller treats to the front of the bouquet and larger to the back to ensure that they can all be seen. 

4. Add your bow

Once you are happy with the arrangement of your treats and everything is steady, you can add the finishing touches. Paige has used a bow that she found online but you could also use ribbon you may have left over from a christmas or birthday gift.

Top Tip!

You can never have too much embellishment so if you want to, add sparkles, stickers or paint the box to match your arrangement.

5. Give it to someone you love

Make someone’s day and give your arrangement to your loved one. You could also if they wouldn’t mind sharing the treats with you… 

Top Tip!

Add some of your favourite treats that your recipient doesn’t like, that way you are guaranteed they will share it with you.

This bouquet doesn’t just have to be for Mother’s Day they can just be a fun way to lift someone’s mood if they are struggling during lockdown or a lovely birthday gift for someone with a sweet tooth. 

If you do create your own bouquet please share pictures with us, we would love to see them!

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Retail and Ecommerce in 2021 Questionnaire

Click here to participate in the questionnaire

Here at Gekko we are always looking to better understand the customer journey at all stages of the shopping cycles in all categories. Whilst non-essential retail remains closed and we have, as a nation, been forced to change our shopping habits, we would like to ask your opinion on how you have shopped during the era of the pandemic.

You might have shopped more, shopped less, made the shift online, or are holding out for the stores to reopen. Please put yourself in the position of you as the shopper and your personal experiences to let us know more by answering the following questions.

All responses will be anonymous, and the survey should only take about 5 minutes of your time. The findings will then be aggregated to better understand how shopping behaviours have been influenced over the past year and possibly into the future.

The survey will run up to the 21st February, and we will collate the results shortly afterwards.

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Five positive signposts on the road to retail recovery in 2021

The data presented in nightly news broadcasts is a strange hybrid of bad news and good news. Of course, we have the all too familiar grim updates on hospitalisations and deaths as a result of covid. But we also now have a counter-narrative – the numbers of people vaccinated who can look forward to a fear-free life again. We may be in the midst of a lockdown, but hope is not only on the horizon but in front of our eyes and shortly to be in our arms. The best of times and the worst of times.

Retailers are also facing a mixture of challenging and hopeful data. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) recently revealed sales growth overall falling by 0.3% in a year dominated by the Covid-19 impact – the worst annual change since the BRC began collating figures in 1995. Yet this is hardly surprising, with the Government forcing retailers to close. Unlike in the midst of other recessions, we can be confident an unprecedented bounce back is looming. A recent KPMG/Ipsos study points to a sales growth of up to 3% for 2021, despite the huge challenges in the first two quarters. Indeed there are several signals that point to a swift route to recovery in 2021.

Weathered and tested

The resilience of retail has been a remarkable success story of 2020 in the face of continuing huge challenges. Throughout the pandemic, retail has been written off only to bounce back whenever it has been allowed to trade. This is evidenced by the figures for lockdown two. According to the ONS, the headline figure for retail sales volumes in November during the second lockdown were 3.8% lower than in October, ending six months of growth. However, the drop was smaller than analysts had expected and, remarkably, sales remained 2.6% above February’s level in the year to November. This was all the more impressive given lockdown forced many shops to close during the month.

Throughout the past 12 months, retailers have had to adapt their trading at short notice, whether closing altogether or introducing a variety of safety measures and still enticing customers to spend. They have also needed to embrace new ways of trading, from click and collect to virtual shop floors to having sales experts in call centres rather than in person. This experience and ability to weather these storms and still attract customers mean retailers will be in much better shape when the good times return.

A shot in the arm for consumer confidence

Retail has always needed and relied on a confident consumer to sustain itself. You feel hopeful about the future and you are more likely to splash out. Over the past few months, we have had a perfect storm of negativity. Daily charts showing exponential infection and death rates highlighting the problem now, with no end in sight creating a feeling of hopelessness. This has created a mental health crisis to add to the immediate public health crisis. However, just as the confidence has been sapped by one thing – the coronavirus, so the cure can be the vaccine – a literal shot in the arm for consumer confidence. Of course, millions have been negatively financially impacted by the crisis, but due to the furlough scheme, many have been protected in a way that hasn’t happened in previous recessions.

Indeed this was the analysis by a KPMG/Ipsos retail think tank, which said retail should be able to look to a brighter second half of 2021. Pent-up savings, demand, a more confident consumer and a successful vaccine roll out all point to a strong rebound. However, it also points to some consumer behaviours changing during the pandemic, with performance varying across different categories.

Retailers have embraced an omnichannel strategy

The pandemic has speeded up the adoption of an omnichannel strategy for many retailers that was probably overdue. Dunelm is a good case in point. Despite huge challenges in its retail estate, the company’s investment in the online channel has paid dividends. Despite all of Dunelm’s 174 stores in Britain being closed to customers, the company expects pre-tax profit for the first half of its financial year to be about £122m, up 33.9% on the previous year. This is due to the investment in online and the trend for home furnishing during the pandemic. Similarly, Dixons Carphone Warehouse announced pre-tax profits of £45m for the six months to 31 October with online sales up 145%. Those brands that have a strong online presence have been able to trade successfully and will benefit even further when their physical stores re-open. Particularly given the next key signal.

Pent-up demand for physical retail experience

Despite online retail’s undoubted increase of the share of the cake, reports of the death of physical retail have been greatly exaggerated. After each lockdown, there has been huge pent-up demand in evidence whenever shops have been allowed to operate. This is despite uniquely off-putting circumstances for consumers to venture out. While we are in the midst of a third lockdown, we know from the end of the second one that footfall increased by nearly 20% as determined consumers returned to stores. With increasing numbers being vaccinated, we can expect an even stronger rebound this time. I am really confident we will see an unprecedented retail re-emergence when the impact of max vaccination is felt. Even retailers like Primark, which recently revealed a £300m hit to profits, remain bullish. As Jason Bason, finance chief of its parent company Associated Foods, pointed out, when its shops had been open sales were only down 14% despite the restrictions. After all, if people are still wanting to venture out during a pandemic, we can be guaranteed they will flock to stores when we have the vaccines rolled out and no longer have to be scared of strangers. People miss the retail experience.

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’

One real trend we have seen during the pandemic is ‘shopping with purpose’. This is consumers wanting to make fewer journeys out, but when they do, not returning empty-handed. Our own analysis for the last trading period, December showed really healthy growth in conversion rates of 51%. This was due to pent-up demand and people returning to stores with a real purpose to buy. Again, the result of lockdown is to make the return to retail all the more profitable – something that can give retailers something to look forward to as we focus on getting through this difficult time. This particularly applies to categories like consumer electronics with higher ticket items and people less willing to buy online. The pandemic has underscored we may be less willing to venture out, but when we do we want to make it count.

While we are in the middle of a really difficult period it may be difficult to keep optimistic, but as we approach the end game of this crisis we can be sure that the public will want to celebrate their new-found freedoms. Retailers that have adopted the right strategies can benefit when good times return.

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Boosting your productivity and mental health for home working

While we may have wanted to start the year on a positive footing and ready for the new working year, the latest lockdown has made this a challenging time. For those able to work from home, it can be difficult to differentiate or define mentally and physically the difference between where you work and where you relax. With so many now having to face up to home schooling this adds a further layer of stress on an already tricky situation. But one consolation might be – we really are all in this together.

The New Year remains a good time to develop new positive habits and also recognise the bad habits you may have picked up. Let’s make the best of the situation and work from home productively while looking after our mental health.

Here we have outlined a few tips and tricks Gekko have used with our teams to manage and achieve the best work life balance with all our lives being within four walls.

Create a ‘home office’, however small

You may well have begun the first lockdown with a dedicated home office. Over time you may have witnessed ‘office creep’, increasingly working from the sofa or checking emails in bed. Have a renewed focus on creating a place you can separate from the rest of your home life. This will psychologically create an important distinction enabling you to switch between home working and home living. If you are able to use a separate room, close the door when the working day is over. This will help the active brain switch off from the thoughts of the working day.

However many don’t have the option of a dedicated working space but we can still apply the same methodology. Make sure you switch off the laptop, ipad or work phone and put them in a cupboard or drawer. Having a laptop out of sight will help put it out of mind meaning you can enjoy your evenings without being distracted. Make sure you do it every day to embed this as a habit. This will be your own version of leaving the office at the end of the working day – without the commute to have to contend with.

Support your posture, your lap shouldn’t be your desk

Working from home means it is all too easy to have no barrier between work and playtime. The ‘soft office’ is a phenomena that has developed throughout the country with a couch replacing your chair and your lap becoming your desk. This of course is bad for your posture. Look to find a more sturdy working space one that may emulate your office set up and ensure you have a chair that supports your back properly. One great tool is Upright Go, which can track and train your posture. This app also provides a visual representation of how you look when you are working. This can be eye opening.

One option is a Standing Desk for your Laptop. These are adjustable to suit any height and will bring your laptop to eye level, which is also perfect to present and work at.

For those using a monitor rather than a laptop screen there are great affordable options for a home office out there. Many brands have a range of different size monitors at reasonable price points to suit any task and will help you to lean into your laptop screen less.

Have a test week to monitor your productivity

You may have put boundaries in place when you first started working from home but over time they may have disappeared. These might be languishing alongside those plans to learn a new language or play an instrument. If they have, take some time to figure out out how you feel most comfortable and the ways you work which make you most productive. You might even start off with a test week where you assess your productivity and how long you are spending on different tasks.

One great exercise is monitoring how long tasks take. You can use a laundry cycle to monitor how long you have focused on one piece of work. Activity trackers like Rescue Time or Clockify are great for showing exactly where your time goes. You can even get Alexa or Google assistant involved. Set timers to get them to remind you to move onto another task or manage your workflow throughout the day.

Don’t skimp on breaks – schedule them in

If you have been working from home for a while it is easy to forget what a usual day in the office looks like. In some ways it is harder to take a break without the natural conversations with colleagues etc to break up the day. The day marches on without notice meaning lunch is grabbed on the hoof between calls. Also it is also possible not to see any daylight, particularly in winter months. This can all serve to burn you out, meaning you become less productive.

Combat this by planning your days in the morning. Add in breaks where you may have had them when working in the office. Your Fitbit should come in handy for this. You will be able to set reminders to take a break and track your steps. If you don’t make your 10,000 steps during the day it is the perfect excuse to get back out once the working day ends. One technique to look at is The Pomodoro Technique. This technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by a short break. This can help you reset your mood for five minutes with some soothing music or a set time to grab a cuppa or fill up your water bottle.

Boost your mood and steps with on the go meetings

Working from home can certainly feel isolating, particularly for those used to an office environment. However remember your other colleagues will likely feel the same. Schedule times for an all team video call or even walking meetings to catch-up. You can increase your steps and even set team challenges.

If you know you do not need to be in front of a screen for a meeting why not use it as a chance for some exercise? It can be a real win/win. Grab your trainers and ear buds and go somewhere quiet while participating in the meeting. Just make sure it is somewhere you can get good reception and limited background noise, just hit mute when you’re not talking and remember to unmute when it’s your turn.

Working from home may have its positives but it’s not always easy. Remember to not be too hard on yourself while adapting to changes you can’t control. The great thing about lockdown is it creates an opportunity to work ‘your way’, whether listening to your music or taking breaks when you want. Make the best of the situation to embed some positive new habits while working from home, even one change will make a difference.

To read the full article please visit Bdaily.

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Brands Don’t Lose That Human Touch – Time to Get Creative

Brand ‘touchpoints’ are increasingly becoming digital, rather than physical, in a world of social distancing. With physical retail in a cycle of lockdowns and people subject to ongoing restrictions, the world of browsing and the art of touch are becoming lost – a necessity of social distancing and hygiene measures. But this key ‘human’ sense influencing purchase simply can’t be replicated in the information-led, online realm.

Luxury brands immerse a consumer in plush carpets underfoot, theatrical lighting in opulent surroundings in glamorous locations complete with the meticulous attention of an expert who has your undivided attention, making you immediately feel the brand is worth it. But with all of these luxury stores having faced periods of closure, we have seen a large reduction in footfall across major cities globally. The ability to capture the essence of the brand online is compromised. The case in point is Burberry who is perhaps a brand more advanced in e-commerce approach to high-end retail. However, the company saw a decline in profits of an estimated 80% coming in at £42m for the six months to September. Other luxury brands are not immune either, with Mulberry reporting a 29% decline in revenue for the first half of the year, due to store closures.

So how can brands fill the void that perhaps we all took for granted and relied so heavily upon? The role of other ‘touchpoints’ becomes even more vital in creating a customer journey that captures the consumer imagination and creates intrigue in the brand to explore more and make a considered purchase.

The new nature of shopping

When retail opened after lockdown one, we at Gekko uncovered a trend that consumers, starved of retail, were returning back to store and shopping with purpose. The journey was necessary and, on arrival, the budget in mind was set and the expectation to part with money was resolute and implied. We looked at all of our return-to-store campaigns across the considered purchase CE sector, focused on 6 distinct categories of Computing, Mobile, White Goods, TV, Smart Home & Wearables, and measured them week on week. The result was that we saw an increase of 28% in conversion rate from demo to sale and 22% in the average basket value.

Now, the increases can be attributed to consumer behavior but also significantly to the assisted sale element of the customer journey that facilitates the sale. The socially distanced engagement remained personal to the shopper and the ability to ask questions was imperative in not only cloning that sale but also increasing the consumers’ spend.

The best strategy and playbook in this new world to maximize the other senses to really sell a brand’s quality are a challenge. We must, therefore, meet the need to make traditional retail a destination worth a consumer’s time and safety.

The voice

Key to this is voice: A trained sales advisor, who can extol the virtues of a product and close a sale even if this is over the phone with outlets locked down or in person with a shopper making a ‘purpose-driven’ shopping visit. To engage the advisor in training, brands and retailers must adhere to covid-secure protocols, so the approach also needs to be reimagined. By keeping it succinct and energetic, and not like training but more a story with several chapters, some yet to be written but lined up to create excitement. By taking it virtual you can still be engaging if you follow the same approach and have the same energy as being in the same room – as if it’s still personal. Online, it’s a harder sell but call it engagement rather than training and it can become more creative. Gamify the process and link it to rich online content from your website, also advertising campaigns and events.

Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success in retail. It starts with effective product launches and is something that traditionally relies on face-to-face engagement and hands-on time with new products. Again, the lockdown has forced us all to think differently about the approach. A virtual approach can enable brands to create genuine excitement for new product launches, engaging retail sales staff and cascading knowledge and know-how to them, again making them more effective in their shopper conversations.

Don’t lose your touch

Touch: Displays of action and demo devices demarcated or constantly wiped down more often than they would probably do if in your possession as your own device. Keep it straightforward and clean. Stand back, encourage play, and keep the conversation flowing using open questions. Learn through specific questions and examples about the customers’ usage habits, likes and dislikes about their current device, and link to features you know are relevant to the user.

When it comes to effectively demonstrating products to shoppers, creative thinking can pay dividends. With some of the limitations indicated above, brands can take the initiative and facilitate the demo experience. Think creatively! Another initiative we implemented was taking the demo to the store and controlling the experience whilst on site. The brand was able to tell the story in their own distinct voice.

Leave a lasting memory

Finally, think about the memory that consumers will be left with. Poor knowledge and advice – when asked for – and an ill-thought-out display will create a negative lasting impression. Missing product information, price tickets, and the devices not being demo-ready will all provide a bad customer experience. The decision to purchase should create a smooth transaction for the customers and, if not in stock, it shouldn’t be a problem. The retail sales advisor should be able to order it online enabling the customer to click and collect or have it delivered. If in stock, the customer should be looked after through to the point of transaction and be on hand to answer any question on set-up and integration of the new device further validating their purchasing choice.

The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the game-changer that increases conversion rate and average basket value, achieved either through a higher purchase price or connection sale and, perhaps, an advocate of both brand and retailer. This is much harder to achieve online and never as gratifying for the end-user as a customer journey that enhanced the individual’s perception of the brand, and worth in relation to their own very personal budget.

As a brand, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and consider what you aspire to achieve, and redouble your efforts. Use this personal approach to enhance the customer journey, engaging in the most effective manner possible with your target consumers. This begins with training that grabs the imagination. Explain creatively how to tell a personal story on the shop floor, that envelopes the consumer, enough to become a customer through informed choice and not merely through distress or promotion. In a world of reduced physical contact, we need to think creatively to ensure brands stay in touch with the needs of their customers.

To read the full article please visit Branding Mag.

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Video Call Interview Hints & Tips

When lockdown began in March 2020, Gekko made the decision to move all of our face to face interviews over to video interviews. This meant we could keep everyone safe while searching for some fantastic people to join our vibrant team. 

It looks as if video call interviews will be the way forward for the time being and Gekko will not be the only company adapting their interview process.

We chatted to our Recruitment Manager and put together  some simple hints and tips for preparing for video interviews and landing that dream job in 2021;

  1. Testing, testing…1,2,3

You should be advised prior to the interview of the platform that will be used for your interview so make sure you are familiar with how it works and download any apps if required. 

You could always ask a friend or family member to do a test run with you so you can check your audio and webcam in advance. On the day, make sure your device is well charged and connected to a strong wifi connection to avoid disruption. 

  1. Pick the perfect location 

Think about your positioning at home for the interview, you wouldn’t take a family photo with you to a face to face interview so do you want them on display in the background? 

Where possible, place yourself against a plain background with no reflections from windows, make sure where you are sitting is comfortable so you don’t fidget and ensure the area is quiet with no distractions or interruptions. 

  1. Dress accordingly 

You might be sitting on the sofa for the interview, but it is still an interview and your opportunity to make that first impression as professional as possible. 

Dress as you would if you were to attend the interview face to face but also think about how your clothes may look on the screen – it is best to avoid busy patterns. 

  1. Try not to fidget

It can sometimes be hard to engage with your interviewer when you are not in a face to face setting so your body language is really important. Be comfortable, but don’t slouch, try not to fidget or touch your face too much. 

Listen and respond to the questions clearly, don’t rush your responses in case there is a slight delay. 

  1. Be prepared

Prepare yourself as you would for any interview; do research on the company, ensure you understand the role you are applying for, have a copy of your application or CV in front of you and have some questions ready. 

There are some plus points to video interviews so take advantage of them: have post it notes stuck to your screen or make yourself flash cards about the company and the role. 

We hope the hints and tips from our Recruitment Manager help you prepare for upcoming video interviews and allow you to give out the best first impression possible. 

Technology may work against you meaning not every interview goes smoothly but we would also like to remind you to be kind to yourself while adapting to changes. The company will understand if you have technical issues just ensure you give the company enough time to rearrange the interview or plan another option.

You are doing the best you can, keep it up and Good Luck!

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How Brands Can Still Engage the Senses in a Socially Distant World

The ability to engage all the senses has been an integral part of building brands for the past hundred years, particularly luxury ones. Yet the separating nature of the pandemic and the rise of ecommerce means they are in danger of losing their ability to engage all the senses. In a world of stay at home measures, social distancing and reduced browsing opportunities, brands need a new approach.

The immersive luxury experience

Luxury brands have always succeeded through their ability to provide an immersive experience for consumers. From wonderful lighting, an alluring product display and a beautiful carpet underfoot, all set in a glamorous location. Of course complemented by the soothing voice of a sales expert who provides a customer with their full undivided attention. It is a magic formula that helps make a premium price tag seem justified, enhancing a brand’s reputation.

But in a world where populations have been forced to retreat behind doors and spend more time behind screens, the world of luxury has been forced into retreat. These intangible brand qualities simply can’t be replicated in the information heavy online world. The figures paint a stark picture. Worldwide the sector is set to contract by a fifth in 2020. Burberry is perhaps a brand more advanced in e-commerce approach to high end retail. Yet, the company saw a decline in profits of an estimated 80% coming in at £42m for the six months to September. Other luxury brands have also felt the pain. Mulberry has recently announced it may have to close its London stores.

So in a world of social distancing, how can brands adapt and still create memorable customer experiences leading to sales? Particularly in a world where our opportunities to physically touch and engage with brands have been so reduced. A customer has to be taken on a journey, their imagination needs to be fired up and enough interest and excitement should be created to inspire them to make a purchase.

The trusted voice of an expert

Key to this is ‘voice’: Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success. Having an advisor who truly understands the product and can close a sale is key, even if this is on the phone in a world of dramatically reduced football. We have also identified a clear pandemic trend of ‘shopping with purpose’ when retail is allowed to open. People are looking to make less trips but ensure they have something to show for it. Therefore a human expert who has the empathy to respond to a customer’s specific needs should be deployed to maximum effect. This is something that cannot be replicated with product information on a website. With these advisors the key advocate for the brand – the process of training these experts needs to be thought through.

Advising the advisors

In a world of social distancing, the way to engage these advisors needs to be reimagined, adhering to covid secure protocols. Brands should focus on reaching these experts through virtual methods. Without the ability to deliver a message face to face, they need to make the experience as immersive and engaging as possible. Training should be gamified and linked to rich online content from their websites.

In a single week during the UK’s second lockdown, Gekko engaged with 1,476 participants from a major retailer, all done virtually, covering 6 unique brands across different categories. The inline sessions were created with the audience in mind and covering an average of 24 products the retailer needed to know about because they featured in the retailer’s Black Friday offers. This approach meant we could actually reach more people than we could ever have in person. It activated an army of advocates to help close vital sales.

A new vision for brands

To complement the advisor, the visual experience is more important than ever in a world where browsing opportunities may be reduced due to hygiene measures. Ensure you are able to bring a product to life visually with great lighting, an appealing display and clearly labelled offers. Once they have been enticed in, keep it straightforward, clean, stand back, encourage play (in a covid secure manner) and keep a great conversation going using open questions to find out more about the customer’s likes and dislikes and needs.

When it does come to effectively demonstrating products to shoppers, creative thinking can pay dividends. With some of the limitations indicated above, brands can take the initiative and facilitate the demo experience. In a ‘purpose-driven’ world we’ve been able to see increases of 28% in conversion rate from demo to sale. There is a golden opportunity for brands to engage all the senses with a shopper determined to make a purchase.

Imprinting a memory

Finally brands should ensure they leave a strong imprint on the ‘memory’. The reality is people are far more likely to remember a bad experience with a brand, so ensure you minimise any opportunity for negative feedback. Don’t leave a poor display or have missing product information. Ensure the product is always demo or display ready. No customer should leave disappointed. Even if it isn’t in stock, the advisor should be able to order it online with the customer able to click and collect or have it posted out. Particularly given the customer’s likely desire to minimise further trips.

Similarly the customer journey shouldn’t end at the point of agreeing the sale. Their hand should be held (metaphorically not literally in today’s world), until the transaction. Advisors should also be on hand to answer any follow up questions about the use of the product once taken home. Often these questions only spring to a customer’s mind after the actual sale has been agreed.

The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the glue that binds a customer to a brand for the long term. This is much harder to achieve online and also crucially never as memorable for a customer in a price-driven environment with far more fickle brand loyalty. Being forced to do things differently and really focus on new creative ways to engage customers is no bad thing. Those that are able to do this effectively and engage all the senses will see the benefit when the good times return.

To read the full article please visit Brand Chief.

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Four positive signals of a happy new year for retailers in 2021

The resilience of retail has been a remarkable success story of 2020 in the face of continuing huge challenges. The pandemic has forced new ways of trading, from the obvious ways of ensuring COVID-safe spaces to rethinking how to target consumers spending the majority of their lives at home. For the retailers left standing, this period of dramatic change will have stiffened their sinews and made them lean, adaptable and ready for when the good times return. There are encouraging signs and we’ve looked at some recent data that provide four signals for real optimism about 2021.

Retailers embrace an omnichannel strategy
The first lockdown came as a hammer blow to the industry. With retail outlets shut throughout the country, consumers shifted rapidly online and overall sales fell sharply . Despite this, the growth in ecommerce couldn’t make up for the volume lost through the doors of physical retail. While the first lockdown was a shock to us all, this time retailers have been far better prepared. The BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor for November revealed that footfall across all UK shopping destinations fell by 65.4 per cent compared with the same month last year, due to England’s lockdown. According to the ONS, retail sales volumes last month were 3.8 per cent lower than in October, ending a six months of growth. However the drop was smaller than analysts had expected and sales remained 2.6 per cent above February’s level, in the year to November. This was all the more impressive given lockdown forced many shops to close during the month. Indeed Dixons Carphone’s recently released half year results indicating a strong performance despite the challenges.

This shows the ongoing resilience of retail with retailers coming up with the right enticing offers to encourage spending. They had adapted to the changed circumstances and ensured they could reach consumers instore or at home. In 2020 the old online/ offline dichotomy has become more irrelevant with all brands and retailers needing an omni-channel strategy to ensure they can best respond to the needs of customers. This is the best way to remain relevant and operate in the future.

Pent up demand for physical retail experience
Despite online retail’s undoubted increase of the share of the cake, reports of the death of physical retail have been greatly exaggerated. After each lockdown there has been huge pent up demand in evidence whenever retail has been allowed to operate. This is despite uniquely off putting circumstances for consumers to venture out. Recent data shows a bigger picture of the return to stores following the lifting of lockdown 2, with footfall increasing by over 19.9% as determined consumers returned to stores ready to purchase after weeks away. High streets and shopping centres have been the real drivers of growth, having suffered the most in November.

Our own analysis of consumer behaviour based on in store behaviour, the G-Index,  has continually been updated post lockdown and we now have over 200 responses from around the country in various stores. 47% remain happy coming into stores, while there has been an increase in those feeling cautious. With that in mind, 90% of retailers have staff on the door managing footfall amongst many other measures designed to maintain a safe environment for all customers. They have impressively reacted to ensure they are COVID safe and have made sure they have communicated this to their shoppers. They have responded in a responsible and agile manner and generated enormous good will that will stand them in good stead for the future. After all if people are still wanting to venture out during a pandemic, we can be guaranteed they will flock to stores when we have the vaccines rolled out and no longer have to be scared of strangers.

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’
One real trend we have seen during the pandemic is ‘shopping with purpose’. This is consumers wanting to make less journeys out but when they do, not returning empty handed.Our own analysis for December is showing a healthy growth in conversion rate of 51%. This was due to pent up demand and people returning to stores with a real purpose to buy. This is particularly the case with categories like consumer electronics with higher ticket items and people less willing to buy online. We may be less willing to venture out but when we do we want to make it count. Smart brands and retailers have realised this and have really focused on making the most of these opportunities for engagement. A great retail environment and well thought through customer experience is always crucial but never more so than now. Additionally a recent IDC Retail Consumer Insights Survey found that 59% of global customers are likely to shop elsewhere if they can’t buy online and pick up in-store. In comparison, 48% said they’d find another retailer if they can’t see in-store availability online.

The rise in prominence of the trusted sales expert

As we have been beset with Amazon packages we have realised something very crucial through absence, namely the importance of a trained expert to provide guidance and advice. For big ticket items, we simply haven’t been able to get the advice we need with information online perhaps answering the ‘what’ a product does and ‘how’ it works but is never able to respond to our unique reasons of ‘why’ we need it. This has been demonstrated by the impressive conversion rates we have witnessed of demonstrations leading to sales. When parting with a significant sum on considered purchases we want to speak to a human who can understand a product’s role in a customer’s life and make recommendations. A further investment in these experts will represent a smart strategy for the next year.  Of course this advice can also be given on the phone in a world of social distancing and many brands have invested in staff in call centres to answer more specific questions about how products can fit into changed lives.

While the vaccine offers the promise of a return to a more normal life, we will all be changed by this experience. Despite the tough times, retailers have shown the strength and adaptability to respond to customers’ changed needs. As the clock chimes midnight this New Year’s Eve perhaps we can be confident we can mean it this time when we say ‘Happy New Year’.

To read the full article please visit Retail Sector.

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Four strategies for mobile brands looking to build market share in 2021

Revised forecasts from IDC predict smartphone sales will have declined by 12% overall in 2020. Against this backdrop, the traditional approach to growing market share for mobile brands is as dated as music festivals, theatre trips or weddings. Instead, brands have needed to adapt innovative new strategies to weather the turbulence, respond to changing consumer needs and come out stronger. A 2019 playbook simply won’t cut it in a continuing world of social distancing and faded touchpoints. Here are four strategies for mobile brands looking to expand market share in 2021.

Focus on establishing credibility

It goes without saying, but it has been a very tough year for challenger brands, with consumers gravitating towards brands they already know. Market leader Apple has expanded market share in the UK from 49% in October 2019 to 53% in October 2020. In this new environment, it has been very difficult for new entrants to promote themselves and establish themselves in consumers’ lives, especially with the reduction in opportunities to physically see and touch a new product. Consumers will want to invest their hard-earned cash and goodwill into credible brands that they know and are likely to stay. Key to this is a brand that has a great portfolio, strong supporting ecosystem, great customer service and the marketing vision and ability to build a credible trustworthy brand. For those wanting to make inroads, they will need a best in class distribution strategy and the ability to really differentiate and personify a brand.

Build in-store knowledge and advocacy

A vital component for any brand intent on gaining market share is how the brand builds knowledge and advocacy among those tasked with selling the devices. This includes retail sales advisors and contact centre sales teams. When premium devices are pushing £1,000+, the customer also wants to have a touch and play, especially when moving into a new brand. While we are spending more of our lives on digital channels and less in shops, the fact remains that when people are shopping they are doing so with ‘purpose’. In other words, they are intent on buying something. A proof point for this is that we have seen conversion rates of over 40% of product demonstrations leading to a sale. Therefore having the right skilled staff in-store to make the sale on more infrequent trips is critical. Consumers also trust brands they can see in stores, as that lets them know that, as a brand, you are committed to the marketplace.

Being quick to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances

In today’s world, it is hard enough to plan two weeks ahead let alone six months. Therefore quick thinking and flexibility are critical. Brands have needed to adapt quickly to sudden government decisions, such as the two national lockdowns and various local restrictions we have seen. Many of the brands I work with have transitioned their activities back into distance sales with as little as five days’ notice. An omnichannel strategy has been needed with non-physical channels critical in 2020. Despite non-essential retail being closed, effective brand engagement continues through innovative e-learning and e-commerce. Many consumers upgrading or shopping for new devices won’t have the option of heading to the high street so have gone down the online or contact centre route. Brands that have been able to switch to providing virtual training and support to these channels have seen positive results.

Premiumisation is a good long-term strategy

A recent report by Counterpoint indicates that the wholesale average selling price (ASP) of the global smartphone market increased by 10% in 2020 despite a decline in shipments and the decline in premium products was less steep than the overall average. The reason being, there has been less economic impact on premium smartphone users. Huawei is a good example of a brand that established itself in the premium category in a relatively short space of time. To succeed in this marketplace, there needs to be a real focus and clarity on what your brand stands for and where you want it to go. A halo effect can drive the overall success for a brand. Driving customer buy-in at the mid- and low-level remains important, but solely targeting the lower- and mid-tiers will cause problems in the future. This is because you will need to buy your way into the premium market. The unintended consequence is that a brand can find itself in a low tier hole that is extremely hard to get out of.

While the market remains challenging, the brands that succeed are the ones able to adapt and respond to the changing needs of consumers. This customer-centricity is what has underpinned the success of innovative mobile companies over the past decade and will be the foundation for success whatever the next year holds.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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