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

Regrexit blog

As much as I might want to avoid the subject, it is impossible to look at retail predictions for 2019 without looking through the lens of Brexit. As the uncertainty continues over a possible deal, I want to try and think about the effect it will have on retailers in 2019, what is probably concerning them and what if anything we can do to brace ourselves.

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

What was interesting, with my retail hat on, was how attitudes to the overall economic outlook of the country and people’s personal finances by age group would impact retail strategy planning their 2019. Overall, the study found that 44% think Brexit will be bad for the economy, versus 31% thinking it will be good. This deteriorating consumer confidence is already being played out on the high street where we are seeing a continuing stream of store closures – not just because of Brexit, but certainly not helped by it.

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

A clear majority of consumers aged 54+ also think Brexit will either be good or make no impact to their personal finances. There are two factors behind this. Firstly, they are after all ‘Generation Wealth’, with more assets and financial independence so therefore less likely to feel they will be adversely impacted. Additionally, as a majority wanted to vote leave anyway, they were clearly unimpressed by what they see as ‘project fear’ from the remain side about some of the reported negative financial impacts.

However, for worried millennials a far different picture emerges. Just 24% think Brexit will be good for the economy versus 50% bad. Meanwhile 44% think it will be bad for their finances, against 18% good. Not surprising when you consider their careers started after the financial crash and they are less secure in their jobs.

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

However, for millennials, worried about their personal financial security as well as the economy, retailers will need to entice them to shop. Millennials seek out experiences which also applies to the way they shop. Retailers need to engage with this audience through the customer journey making any purchase a positive experience. What is the USP versus Amazon for this digital, increasingly disenfranchised demographic?

Having a distinct strategy for the different demographics and understanding their mindset, spending power and intention will be key. Also, being agile and flexible and able to react quickly to the market and buying signals. Just as the outcome of the negotiation won’t satisfy all political parties or a now fractured population, neither will a one size fits all retail strategy. Start planning now to remain relevant to your customer base as we move into unpredictable 2019.

To read the full article visit The Drum.

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Brits want ‘service over sci-fi’ from retailers

The Drum Blog

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

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

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

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

A third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22%) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, incrementally adding to sales. Over a third (34%) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer.

The research also highlights the impact of the decline of the local shop, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them, 16% confessing they preferred the days when they could talk through a purchase with a someone in-store, and a quarter saying online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop. The convenience of a store’s location is also stated as important by 43% of respondents which means that as retailers consolidate their estates, many will notice the effects, further emphasising the need to carefully consider the experience being provided in-store and the staff needed to deliver the experience.

According to the research we waste almost an hour and a half a month – which is 17 hours a year, the equivalent of more than two days at work – interacting with automated technology, only for a human to have to step in and help. Bug bears include getting someone to rectify a problem with the self-service checkout, and ringing customer services and dealing with a recorded voice, only to repeat the details to the person you end up talking to.

Little wonder, then, that 51% of Brits have slammed the phone down during an automated call, as the system didn’t recognise what they were saying. And 47% of shoppers have experienced self-service checkout failure that’s had to be rectified by a shop assistant.

In fact, more than three quarters (77%) of UK shoppers admit they’d much rather use a checkout with a person on it, rather than taking the self-service option. More than 4 in ten (43%) British shoppers would rather speak to a person than an automated system when making a phone enquiry, with almost a quarter (23%) ending up having to complain on social media when their query hasn’t been responded to via the automated service.

Daniel Todaro, managing director of Gekko said: “Everyone is talking about technology and innovation within retail, but our research clearly shows that what consumers really want is the human touch. With traditional retail under more pressure than ever and an astonishing 81% of people feeling that the personal touch has disappeared from shopping, businesses need to focus on the customer experience in these tough trading times to help keep the high street alive.”

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

To read the full article visit The Drum.

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

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Back to school: a lesson in brand relations

 

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.

Daniel Todaro is managing director at Gekko

Read the original article on The Drum

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The best place for the home to get smart is on the high street

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 SonyPhilips 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.

Click here to read the article on The Drum

 

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