I’ve never been prouder to own an independent agency, but we need the support of ‘big retail business’ like never before, says Gekko Managing Director, Daniel Todaro
I’ve been running an independent marketing agency, working in retail for over twenty years and I’ve never felt so fortunate to be in charge of my own destiny and the people that work for me. Rather than shareholders telling me what I have to do, I know in these unprecedented times, I can do what’s right. I’m attune to my social and corporate responsibilities and I’ve already seen numerous other independent agency owners across all disciplines from PR to creative doing the same. I hope by talking about some of our initiatives we can all share ideas to protect the people of this country. But when we’re doing all we can without big behemoths behind us like the networked agencies surely, we should command and see the same behaviour from the retail brands we work with?
As a sector, industry and business which is all about its people, the commercial focus for us is ’not for profit’ and any revenue we are able to generate is for the sole purpose of keeping staff employed, paid and proud to call us their employer. From large and small independent agencies across the UK I’m hearing similar and heart felt messages to employees ‘we’re in this together’.
Gekko is operating with a with a ‘People First’ approach but what about the global retail businesses we work with? At what point do we as an industry call out brands for their behaviour? Or are they allowed to get away with it because us independent agencies are scared that we’ll never get work with them again?
Like hundreds of agencies big and small across the country we’ve seen clients pulling campaigns and budgets overnight. While I recognise that in the short term retail outlets are closed and e-commerce has slowed down surely global corporations can take a more generous approach and support their suppliers as best they can? Primarily honouring the pay of their account teams dedicated to their brand by scaling down spend rather than switching it off, paying a proportion of the fees for their next project and banking the time or sharing agency team cost to aid cash flow.
I’m not saying that retail businesses should do this above looking after their own staff and businesses, but this is only a temporary situation and we have to survive together because we’re going to need each other when we come out the other side. Businesses live or die by the power of their brands, this value often driven by us marketing folk.
Diageo has this week announced a $1million pot to help its on-trade customers through these difficult times so it is possible to commit to the supply chain. But I, like I’m sure many other agency owners have seen both sides of the coin, incredibly supportive retail clients and those that quite frankly have shirked their moral duty and are failing workers who thought they represented a decent, honest brand.
Brands who turn their back on their responsibilities, relationships and partners are the brands that need to be called out. When they act in this manner, they also fail the consumer as the brand values they portray in their marketing are the antithesis of the brand values they trade on. As you can probably tell I’m trying not to yell a name and shame but when your retail brand turned over billions last year, it’s kind of incumbent of you to do your bit and support not turn your back on the agencies who work hard for you.
The New Year in tech wouldn’t be the same without CES, the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas between 7th – 10th January attended by almost every established tech brand, start up brands, incubator and brand on the periphery of technology with something to showcase. The products on display range from the expected to the unusual, as in the case of sex tech, which for the first time seems to have found its place and acceptance at CES. As indeed has Ivanka Trump, who was controversially invited to headline as the keynote speaker when arguably there are far more qualified females, actually from the technology sector, rather than this particular privileged individual.
CES welcomed over 175,000 visitors to see over 4,500 exhibitors and 1,000+ speakers making it quite a big deal within the technology industry. It also means lots of product and innovation announcements, such as the smart shower head with Alexa built-in from Kohler, a smart frying pan that analyses your food whilst you cook it from SmartyPans, to autonomous vehicles from the now established brands in this sector and not so with Sony launching its autonomous vehicle prototype named Vision S. The vehicle is a prototype designed to show off the firm’s sensors and in-car entertainment technologies. The dashboard is flanked by an ultra-wide panoramic screen for driving information and entertainment. However, Sony did not indicate that it had any plans to sell the car to the public with Sony’s chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida only stating “We will accelerate our efforts to contribute to the future of mobility”.
Do you Uber? Well in future you may be doing so in the Uber Hyundai flying taxi. The S-A1 concept is an electric powered aircraft with four rotors for vertical lift off and landing and conceptually able to travel at a maximum speed of 180mph carrying four passengers. Flying autonomously at 2,000ft for a maximum of 60 miles, it may be zipping across a city skyline near you in the not too distant future.
Surveillance related technology seemed to be big this year with multiple brands showcasing security equipment such as cameras, doorbells and motion sensors, which is really rather boring and perhaps only serves to feed the paranoia of those who fear the worst. Loosely connected to this category is one of my favourite products to be announced, a smart mailbox developed by Canadian company Danby, which addresses the common problem of parcels thefts and re-deliveries. The device would assist in reducing the carbon footprint of our propensity to order online for delivery rather than buy in-store. The smart mailbox will apparently go on sale in the UK later this year offering a box which has an anti-theft drop-in slot for smaller packages opened with a code or smartphone app. The app will also be able to place phone calls between a parcel courier and a customer if they need to open the box remotely. I suspect this will get simplified should usage increase amongst users and online retailers.
Another neat headline grabber announced at CES 2020 was the Samsung tennis ball-like robot called Ballie. It beeps and rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’. Ballie also acts as a fitness assistant, can help with household chores, and activates smart home devices such as robotic vacuums when it thinks something needs to be cleaned. However, in common with the Daleks, it will find stairs a challenge! No release date has been announced, however AI and 5G are the main focus for Samsung in 2020 and not Bixby, as had been much hyped last year. Another product launched by Samsung and to be available in the UK and US later this year is the Sero TV, a rotating TV which connects to your phone. Perfect for Generation Z or those who spend equal time watching on a small device as they do TV. It can be rotated from landscape to portrait and is only available in a 47” 4k screen and estimated to land at £1,200.
Another twist on the laptop came from Dynabook. Majority owned by Sharp and formally Toshiba, the brand that launched the world’s first laptop computer in 1985, Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. Weighing in at an impressive 0.9kg and sporting a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor the Portege X30L-G is built using a magnesium-alloy chassis and includes a full-size HDMI. With Gigabit Ethernet, up to 24GB memory and Wi-Fi 6 the device also includes a TPM 2.0 IR camera and fingerprint reader.
Not to be outdone was Lenovo with its ThinkPad X1. A dual/ folding screened laptop with an Intel processor that runs Windows on a 13” screen when unfolded. It is slated to arrive mid 2020 in the US at a price of $2,499 with no word yet on UK pricing.
In fact, there were a rash of foldable screens on display this year and it certainly seems to be a trend not looking to abate soon, making 2020 potentially the start of a flexible decade. Foldable screens were launched on devices from turkish brand TCL and its prototype Foldable Phone (no name as of yet) and Dell with two concepts, the Duet – Foldable Notebook and Ori – a Foldable Device, unfortunately no plans to release these have been indicated. The much publicised Motorola Razr foldable phone was on display which has been available for pre order since December but was set for released during January 2020.
As you can imagine, smart speakers and assistant-enabled products were everywhere at CES 2020. With over 46 third-party Google Assistant-endabled products and 40 Amazon Alexa ones, it made the presence of both brands more notable throughout the show, with Google creating theatre to engage, as they do best.
Google revealed, for the first time, user numbers for the services is at 500 million people in a month and also a whole range of new features enabling users to schedule certain tasks with other connected devices. The features will allow users to, for example, schedule the washing machine to start its cycle at 6pm and also upload contacts from your phone to your Google Nest Hub.
Users will also be able to leave Sticky Notes on the screen for others in the house to see and have the ability to control 20 different types of devices through Google Assistant, which is needed with the increasing third party product partnerships.
Now we are all busy people and many time saving devices were on show but two stood out to me. The first will make sure we never need to drink a warm tinny again. The Matrix Juno supercooler is a kitchen countertop device priced at £300 which uses a thermoelectric cooling engine to absorbs heat using electricity known as the Peltier effect. It can cool a can of beer from room temperature to 4oc in two minutes or a bottle of wine to its desired 9oc in five minutes.
The other is the Y-brush toothbrush from FasTeesH designed to clean your teeth in 10 seconds. It’s a mouthguard type contraption packed with bristles that vibrate to clean all your teeth at the same time, arriving in March at around £100. I can’t help but think that making time by speeding up the process of cleaning your teeth has never been a priority for many, the cleaning is what counts.
Not wanting to ignore the most progressive news at CES this year, I think it important to highlight and applaud the CES organisers decision to now formally allow sex tech brands to exhibit at CES in 2020 after many years of exclusion. What this means is that sex tech companies are on the same playing field as all but in particular the established tech giants. However, there are exclusions with those companies exhibiting sexual wellness products having to agree in addition to the CES’s standard contract and rules also a separate sex toy addendum.
Why is this a progressive move? It’s predicted to be a $50 billion industry by 2025 and as taboos tumble and generations embrace a pragmatic approach to sexuality and sex, it’s an industry sector the ‘big players’ may wish to enter and penetrate as a lucrative growth market.
With so many new products announced at CES 2020, what does it mean for retailers? And how must they adapt to innovation across existing and new categories? Experience. Consumers are looking to experience innovation in order to make educated purchasing decisions. Whether that be by seeing a foldable screen in their hand to believe it, engaging with a personal robot to realise its value to them as a user or see that TV rotate 180 degrees, it’s all about the in-store experience a retailer can create where no online retailer can.
Innovation needs to be experienced live, not online and the retailers who can identify with this can cut through to make the tills ring by giving the customer an experience worth coming back for and spreading the word. People are never going to stop shopping on the high street. It’s just the way they shop and where they are do it that has changed. Retail, as an industry, is vital to the global economy, so as we enter a new era of high street retailing, my advice to brands is: Always let consumers ‘live’ the experience and feel the brand.
The UK is historically a nation of shoppers, which more often than not puts it in the top five markets for many global brands. Right now, however the economy is tough, and retail is hurting.
With so many retail brand names disappearing from the high street, reducing choice and damaging local communities or shopping districts, the retailers that remain are struggling to survive.
Marks and Spencer, founded in 1884, is a brand unique to the UK, with no global footprint. It serves a niche market of 63 million residents, many of whom have lived with it their entire life. But it’s been well documented that the chain has struggled to connect with a younger audience, and by trying to do so has started to lose its appeal to its core audience.
By trying to be something for everyone, it’s starting to mean nothing to anyone.
One of the main issues with M&S is the fact that it’s a brand with no subsidiaries, and it doesn’t sell any third party products across fashion, homeware, and furniture, with only a few exceptions in the cosmetic and food categories. That makes it very different to some of the brands it competes with, like H&M Group – who have a broad global audience to speak to across 62 counties. Its many brands include H&M, H&M Home, Arket, COS, Weekend, Cheap Monday, Monki, and Other Stories. With approximately 4,500 doors and eight clearly defined brands, H&M Group meets the needs of so many generations and demographics in a way that M&S can’t.
A public breakup
With falling sales and decline across all categories except food which registered like-for-like sales uplift 0.9% with its latest half year results, is there any chance for M&S to refresh its brand to appeal to the many in a progressive nation like the UK?
I don’t think so: it’s almost like an “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of breakup.
The change has already begun. 47 stores have disappeared and the retailer is still looking to close 100 stores by 2022, but with 1,035 UK stores, that still leaves a lot of square footage. The current UK turnover figures of £9.4bn demonstrate that the brand isn’t doing too badly against others who are teetering on the brink of collapse, but it’s losing its focus by desperately chasing growth which isn’t there and, in the process, stifling creativity.
So forget the gimmicks like the M&S Little Shop (those collectable mini grocery items made from non-biodegradable material). This was a bit of a PR disaster, especially when you consider that for many the ethics of fast retail are a major concern. Shoppers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact certain industries make with fashion, for example, accounting for around 10% of total carbon emissions and a significant percentage of total water consumption.
M&S do have their Plan A sustainability programme, but does it do enough to communicate it? I don’t believe so and think M&S could be speaking to so many who are keen to see a retailer change and pioneer green retail for all.
Fixing the brand
Aside from missing a trick on environmental initiatives, it also lags behind other retailers on its feelgood factor. Its in-store experience is lacking, and its approach to retail will never compliment a great advertising campaign.
But one of the simplest forms of enhanced experience starts with staff; M&S have the benefit of loyal and customer centric staff so why not make them your ambassadors to create that experience? Perhaps ditch the uniform and in the process possibly save yourself a lot of money. Dress your staff in your clothes and update it seasonally. The outlay would be less, and your team immediately become the advocates of your brand.
Collaborate with a brand and start a conversation with someone new. Find the yin to your yang and be realistic – no one really wants to wear M&S trainers! Find a complementary brand for a category or create a collection that people really want to chase and will desire.
The current model is clearly not working – but hold on, it’s still making a handsome turnover, employing 81,000 staff and achieving a profit, so what’s the problem? Are the reports self-fulfilling in that they only serve to change perceptions in the consumers mind?
Regardless, the growth for brands like M&S is limited unless they can create a seismic shift in appeal to a younger or more affluent audience which starts with the experience a consumer feels from the brand.
A new report – ‘Click and Regret’ – from marketing agency Gekko has revealed the shocking waste now involved with online shopping. According to the survey, consumers are wasting £641m online every year buying goods they don’t want and failing to return them.
The survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted by One Poll on behalf of Gekko reveals that 27% of respondents (equating to 12.4m UK adults) order goods online they regret buying, but fail to return. The average amount wasted every year is £51.90 per person, equating to £641m overall. Nearly a third of UK adults (31%) also confess to being lured into buying items they don’t want or need, and 70% regularly regret buying things online so send them back.
Despite people being seemingly unable to resist the temptation of spending money online, nearly half felt that the ease of shopping online fuels extensive shopping habits and 43% said they also spend more money online than they originally intended.
Although internet shopping is meant to be time efficient, a whopping 65% said they spent more time shopping online than they expected because. Additionally, 69% felt that there’s too much choice, while 54% want to hunt for the best prices, and 34% of respondents feel compelled to shop around .
However, respondents also claim to be concerned about the environmental impact of online shopping with 75% worried about the excessive use of packaging and single use plastics. Meanwhile 70% said they were concerned about the societal impact on the high street and local economy of increasing online shopping.
Daniel Todaro, MD, Gekko, comments: “It’s clear from this research that online shopping can be a false economy. Although in theory we can return the goods we buy, many of us are too busy to bother, so what starts as convenient soon becomes costly and inconvenient.
“This results in unwanted goods cluttering cupboards, gathering dust in wardrobes or heading for landfill at an alarming rate. With our high street suffering and many people still enjoying its benefits such as try before you buy, excellent customer service and immediate purchasing experience, people should be more mindful before they click and get out and support their local businesses, help the environment and their pockets.”
Over the last few years, smart home technology has revolutionised the way we live at home and according to PWC’s White Paper, Connected Home 2.0, 10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in the UK in 2019. But despite this, a recent survey we carried out into the connected home highlighted consumer frustration with smart home technology.
Consumers cited all sorts of problems – from not being able to get their smart home technology to connect to each device and talk to each other; not having an idea of how to work it all works; being worried about security; and seeing little perceived benefit or value in the technology. Whilst this may sound negative, this presents a huge opportunity for 5G to boost further appliance adoption and showcase the future possibilities in the home.
There’s been a lot of hype around 5G, but I believe 5G is a transformative technology for the home, as it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting appliances, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look around your home. There’s already numerous appliances that rely on a strong wireless connection to work – iPads, virtual assistants, laptops – and without it everything comes to a halt. 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, nicely and simply. From rural areas where broadband speeds are poor to urban areas where speeds can suffer from congestion; 5G will enhance the possibilities for a smarter home.
This will pave the way for 5G-enabled fully integrated living spaces that adjust to the needs of each member of the family, changing the way people entertain, consume media, use their utilities, communicate and cook. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Home are only the start and we’ve seen a fraction of what personal assistants are capable of. Google announced at CES earlier this year that it wants to make its Assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life; in the home, in the car and on mobile devices. 5G will be that enabler.
Layer on top of this the possibilities of 5G-enabled in-home augmented and virtual reality for cooking. Imagine Delia standing next to you showing you how to cook one of her recipes at the touch of a button. Sit down with your friends and family to watch a tennis match and imagine real time sports data appearing over tennis players as they hit the ball. 5G will make smart homes even smarter by unshackling developers from the speed restrictions and other issues that exist with today’s solutions where devices rely on wi-fi networks or Bluetooth connections.
5G can provide a more consistent approach, making things easier to setup and thus encouraging product development and subsequent consumer adoption. It is about future-proofing the nation and one of the most interesting effects will be the societal impact 5G will have on our aging population. 5G networks will help users age in place and blur the lines between hospital and home, better managing the healthcare of patients who require the most resources from our currently overloaded NHS.
We’ve already seen how sensor operated smart home tech can alert families to movement, so they know their elder relatives are up and about in the house and not lying there injured or worse, dead. And remote surgeries, where doctors see patients by video call, often suffer with buffering as an issue, particularly in remote locations which makes the service more difficult for vulnerable people to use. 5G will take this to a whole new level; real-time remote monitoring of medication usage; food intake levels and exercise; connecting the elderly to seamlessly operated telehealth services and tracking indicators from sleep to blood pressure and insulin levels.
5G can help power personalised, preventative and smarter care capabilities and elevate connected medicine to an unprecedented level helping elderly people live fulfilling and productive lives on their terms. This is exciting times for a growing societal issue here in the UK but let’s not underestimate the understanding we need of the health ecosystem and what it will take to implement the systems to connect to these technologies.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced in May 2019 that a new £62 million fund will breathe new life into historic high streets across the country. Really? What’s £62m going to do? Unless there’s a momentous shift by Government regarding the business rate issue no £62m fund is going to fix anything or impact the dire straits we find our high streets in.
But here’s the conundrum. Across the country, people still enjoy going shopping. Shops are not going to disappear and 89 percent of UK sales are still generated through physical retail.
Consumers want high streets and businesses want to be there. We can’t give up on our high streets, but we need to fundamentally disrupt the existing model with ideas that address business rate costs head on.
Reigniting imagination on the high street
We need traditional brick and mortar retailers to be imaginative and visionary to make retail work for them and their customers. We haven’t seen enough of this. There’s been some successes where traditional retail chains have introduced successful in-store experiences, from speaker spaces to free cookery classes, to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere.
We’ve also seen successful buy outs where we see anchor brands amalgamate multiple brands under one roof such as Sainsbury’s and Argos (Store within a Store concept – SiS). This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.
Brand collaborations appear to work well, and this is where I think independent retailers need to deploy more disruptive strategies. Surely independents sharing space makes sense from a financial and marketing perspective and works for all collaborations, whether it’s an anchor brand and SiS or two brands in equal partnership.
Let’s take my local high street, where there is a bookshop with a coffee shop, and this unsurprisingly works well. So why don’t we see such partnerships more often with, say, independent clothes and shoe shops hooking up, cook shops and delis collaborating and complimenting one another and butcher’s, bakeries, greengrocers and florists joining up.
With so many consumers now on a personal quest to do what’s good for the planet, collaborations can really work to bring purpose to the fore and give consumers more choice.
The rise of the ethical high street
For people who are ethically minded, they may prefer to visit collaborations that have similarly aligned values for example, butchers, delis and bakeries that are fully ethically sourced or organic or shoe and clothes shops that won’t use unethical material. Delivering a positive, convenient and alternative shopping experience for people for whom these things are a driving factor in their purchasing decisions will provide an incredible customer service and experience that’s missing right now.
I’ve been in the industry over twenty years so I’m not naive enough to think this is easy, but retail is the most dynamic of industries and it needs to do something before it loses its confidence and high streets forever. I believe it requires a major re-think of the whole supply chain from landlords to legal and introducing new innovations like retail matching services. A service that pairs up independent retailers who are looking for high street shop spaces in particular areas.
There are all sorts of challenges – what happens if one brand is doing well, and the other isn’t, if one wants to sell and one doesn’t? But we’re at an impasse where something drastic needs to happen for us to re-imagine the high street. And drastic means disruption and innovation not more of the same.
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.
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.
Back to school in my youth was always met with a heavy sigh when my parents calculated the uniform costs and I wanted the latest pencils and rubbers. These days, trends have changed. Thanks to the competition among discount supermarkets like Aldi, Lidl and Asda we’ve seen uniform costs and stationary prices plummet, giving consumers a far greater choice at more reasonable prices often using ‘event’ advertising campaigns increasing footfall into store and bolstering revenues in other areas of their business.
There’s one category that’s changed everything as it becomes a staple of the ‘Back to School’ event, particularly in higher education: consumer electronics – to be precise computing – adding a whole new layer of cost parents must budget for. While retailers should consider an all-year-round back-to-education strategy, back to school begins to increase in prominence from August, especially in the technology category. The value of the back-to-school market in the UK is estimated to be worth around £1.45bn and while uniforms and stationery will make up a large proportion of this market, the increasing requirement for technology in the classroom means that edu-tech continues to be a growth opportunity for retailers.
Every school, college and university around the UK differs, but they all require some level of ‘technology’ input and expense from parents. As government budgets for school funding continue to decrease, this need will only get bigger and more expensive. It’s a costly exercise and therefore something no parent or student wants to get wrong. A bring your own device (BYOD) policy is becoming common place and enables the market to grow to support this with the right advertising, marketing and in-store execution. As a considered purchase – and for many their first computer that they don’t have to share – the need to try before you buy is important. It’s a seminal moment for most teens. The look, the feel, the height and size are vitally important to most, especially in our streaming culture where the device is both for work and play.
Not everyone is tech literate and understands what product is best for their child and, yes, some schools have preferred suppliers, but often parents are sent out into the big wide world to get a lap top or a PC and the choice is overwhelming and confusing. This often leads to a whole host of questions: what hardware and platform do I opt for? What software will I need to buy? What about security? Is it going to be out of date before the end of the school year? Is it robust enough? Am I spending more than is necessary?
For teenagers going to University this is a chance to upgrade their old ‘shared’ kit and start fresh with new equipment that has the functionality to assist them in delivering their course and honing their tech skills ready for the workplace. This is a great opportunity for brick and mortar retailers to position themselves as the advisor – the place to go when you’re inundated with choice, don’t know what to buy or where to go to experience the products to touch and feel and work out if they’re right for you.
The ability to choose from a range in an environment geared towards making this decision is crucial for university and tertiary education students; different courses will require the technology to have specific functionality. Retailers need to be inquisitive and understand the student’s lifestyle to match the product to their needs. Technology purchases are not just about the one product these days, they are multi-functional lifestyle solutions, so in-store staff have to be trained to ask the most pertinent questions: What will you study? Is design (weight and size) a primary consideration? How do you consume media and home entertainment? What’s the budget?
Amazon will be a key back-to-school destination – especially for the 30% of Brits that now have Prime membership – but this is something Amazon and other online retailers can never do as effectively when a personal approach to a considered purchase is needed by a brand and retailer.
Never underestimate the first consumer interaction with your brand – an emotional connection that shouldn’t be undervalued. Not only is it a great opportunity for a brand to bring a new customer into their portfolio and up-sell them through their product ecosystem as their needs and lifestyle changes; it is also the chance to create an advocate and customer for life. Brands invest heavily in extra activity around back-to-education including Fresher’s Fairs and NUS affiliated marketing. Paying attention to planning and implementing in-store strategies within retail is an essential part of any back-to-education marketing strategy.
It’s no surprise that the Smart Home dominated last month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a whole range of evolution and innovation across security, home appliances and energy management. The trend has no doubt been expedited by the huge success of intelligent assistants with Google announcing that their Home devices sold over 6 million units, that’s one every second, and now Google Assistant runs on over 400 third party devices globally.
Many brands, such as Samsung, have opted to support their brands by integrating their own technology. Its lesser-known Bixby Assistant was integrated into its Smart Fridge with AKG speakers, making it a multimedia centre for the kitchen. Kholer showcased its intelligent bathroom ‘Konnect tech’ enabling your shower, bathtub, toilet, mirror and tap to be connected, both to you and each other. The company’s Touchless Response technology provides hands-free toilet flushing, perfect for those germophobes.
The market is evolving and in 2018 it will start to get a lot more crowded as the category grows from Amazon and Google offering their own speakers in a variety of form factors but also Google, Alexa and Siriin other hardware brands like Sonos. Sonos have already released the Sonos One with Alexa, and they have hopes to integrate Siri and Google Assistant soon. Apple’s HomePod will hit homes but Siri offers some weak competition as it struggles to develop its voice recognition. Yamaha, Libratone, and DTS all announced Alexa driven smart speakers this year, with Sony, Philips and LG announcing Google Assistant integration into their smart products.
And here lies the problem. Confused already? Indeed. Understand what’s compatible with what system? Probably not. Do you know if your Ring Video Doorbell can be hooked up to your Google Home, so you can speak to any visitors without having your smart phone to hand? If you’re reading this, you probably work in marketing and are classed an early adopter. Imagine what it’s like for everyone else seeing and hearing about these products everywhere they go and no idea what to do and how to integrate them.
Smart Home retail value is expected to reach £5.11bn worldwide this year and according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), while online sales continue to rise, e-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales in December 2017 was still only 18%. We also know that a Smart Home device in many instances requires an assisted sale. It’s a considered purchase and for some, a rather complicated buying process with further concerns about installation and integration with existing technology.
This is a great opportunity for traditional retailers to excel and showcase why they are still the best channel for selling ‘technology’ products using the retail environment to educate, engage and sell to the consumer through driving excitement and experience directly with the brand.
Our own research shows that even among today’s tech savvy 18 to 24-year-olds, more than 40% prefer to head in-store to see, touch and experience a product before buying, rising to 58% for the over 55s. Most surprising is that 38% of 18 to 24-year-olds want a personal service and recommendation from in-store staff, the highest among of all the age categories.
When we asked what advertising has influenced a considered purchase, none of the mainstream advertising channels were cited as influential: just 7.5% for TV, 8.7% for website, 4.6% for social media, 3% for billboard and 2% for newspaper and print. Advertising in-situ within the retail environment however was rated the key influencing factor at 19%.
This is a clear signal that traditional retailers should spend time and money working with staff on the shop floor and make the consumer experience as good as it can be as it will pay for itself through category development and increased sales at a higher average sales price – a win win for both retailer and brand.