Tag Archives: business

How 5G will boost the smart home market

PCR Blog

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, with consumers citing that they can’t get their smart home technology to connect to each device and talk to each other, they have no idea how it all works, they are worried about security and there’s little perceived benefit or value.

Whilst this may sound negative, this presents a huge opportunity for 5G to boost further device adoption and showcase the future possibilities in the home.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G – from downloading a full HD movie in under five seconds to making fully automated vehicles a reality – but I believe 5G will be a transformative technology for the home, as it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting devices, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look round your home, count up the numerous devices that rely on a strong wireless connection to stream, to work, to secure, to survive – tablets, mobiles, TVs, voice assistants, PCs, thermostats, light-bulbs, alarms, cameras, and gaming right through to connected appliances. Without a good connection, they can all come to a grinding halt.

Stadia by Google is an example of where 5G and gaming complement each other. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality. With 2.3bn active gamers globally and 46% of those (1.1bn) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63m daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future. Now with Stadia, the internet – accessed increasingly via 5G – will be your store, with the network and data centre as your platform.

The innovation that is 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, faster, 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 entire communities and not only the smart 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 just 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 at the touch of a button, Delia or Jamie standing next to you showing you how to cook one of their recipes. Sit down with your friends and family to watch a tennis match and image 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.

For those who feel security could be an issue, the good news is that mobile operators are ensuring security is built into the fabric of their 5G networks and there’s no reason for 5G networks to be any less secure to use than 4G. When connecting a device to a 5G network the same protocols you’d apply to security software, passwords etc. should be applied as normal, however it is worth noting that all data sent over 5G is encrypted and 5G devices will offer increasingly advanced security options. Interestingly, according to research from Ericsson, 29% of people would like DNA authentication to be a biometric security option.

The reality is that 5G can provide a more consistent approach, making things easier to setup and thus encouraging product development through to subsequent consumer adoption and increased usage of the vastly developed Internet of Things. With inbuilt future proofing, one of the most interesting effects will be the societal impact 5G will have for our ageing population, assisting those who are fit but may be less able to manage themselves. This may blur the lines between hospital and home. For many, it’s more effective to manage the healthcare of patients who require the most resources from home rather than via our currently overloaded NHS. In addition, its adoption can reduce loneliness and speed of response in the event of an emergency.

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. There are also remote surgeries where doctors see patients by video call, however buffering is often an issue in remote locations, which makes the service more difficult for vulnerable people to use. The implementation of 5G will take this to a whole new level; real-time remote monitoring of medication usage; food intake levels and exercise; connecting the vulnerable to seamlessly operated telehealth services and tracking indicators from sleep to blood pressure and insulin levels.

It 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.

The opportunities 5G technology offers all generations extends beyond the home and to the streets through autonomous vehicles, traffic management and the smart monitoring of the environment around you, telling you in real-time, for example, where best to avoid pollution on your daily run. Moreover, everything you would currently expect to be able to access or control in the home will be available to you wherever you are, without any comprises imposed on you by being away from regular Wi-Fi based connectivity.

Ericsson forecasts that by 2024, 5G subscriptions will reach 1.9bn, and that coverage could blanket up to 65% of the world’s population.

The UK’s largest network operator, EE, was the first to launch 5G in the UK on 30th May, 2019, beaten by the Swiss who launched in April. Service started in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester, with several other cities joining before 2020. Vodafone also launched on 3rd July 2019 in seven cities with 12 other cities to be included before 2020. Three will join the 5G race in August in London. A total of 25 other locations will get 5G in the UK via Three before 2020. Lastly O2, with no published launch date, announced its plans to roll out its 5G network in 2019 in Cardiff, London, Belfast, and Edinburgh to start, with more areas getting 5G in 2020.

Whilst the UK is already partially 5G enabled, devices are limited and we’re not that far ahead of the vast majority of developed nations whom all plan to launch in 2019/2020 such as Germany, Italy and Norway all behind Vodafone Spain who are ahead of all EU nations having launched on 15th June in 15 cities.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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What do the Tory candidates policies mean for the high street

LLB BLog

In the blizzard of spending splurges promised by the two candidates to be our next Prime Minister has been some announcements that could be very significant for High Street retailers. Boris Johnson, the clear favourite, has announced that he wants to introduce 100% business rate relief on free-to-use ATMs to keep as many as possible open in town and city centres to ensure shoppers can withdraw money. He has declared that he wants to curb the closure of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) that has followed the surge in contactless payments.

While this may appeal to shire Tories of a certain vintage the trouble is the Boris approach is as feasible as owning a unicorn. In a contactless world, less and less people are drawing out cash when you can tap a card or your phone. The subsidies he is proposing would not allow for the cash machine to be free as it still needs to be maintained, filled, connected and bank charges apply which make the model loss making for any operator especially if it is used infrequently. More poppycock from the master of poppycock.

Johnson also talks about wanting ‘a range of bureaucratic and legal barriers to business to be swept away’ to allow high-street shops to flourish. This includes an ‘overhaul of town and country planning laws that mean converting one form of premises ie. a shop, cafe, pub or hot-food takeaway, to another can be a lengthy process’.

One option being considered by Johnson’s team is introducing a new “A” class business category covering shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes. The measure would allow existing shops to easily offer additional services.

He also called for the immediate unlocking of a £675m government fund earmarked for sprucing up high streets around Britain. If he becomes prime minister, he plans to announce this summer the towns that have been successful in bidding for shares of the cash.

Although on paper the overhaul of planning laws looks attractive, the problem is planning laws relating to change of use are not in his power to change, neither will £675m go far and how does he propose to choose which towns are more worthy of the fund? As ever with Johnson’s announcements rhetoric trumps reality.

Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt has pledged to exempt hundreds of thousands of small businesses from business rates if he becomes Prime Minister. Hunt intends to scrap taxes for nine out of 10 high street shops in a bid to save the high street. The claim is the move will save newly exempted businesses up to £6,500 each and will scrap taxes on 24,500 businesses based in Birmingham (5,000), Manchester (8,000), Leeds (6,000), Newcastle (2,000) and Bristol (3,500).

Hunt said that his government would reform the current Retail Discount rate, so that businesses which qualified for the discount would see their entire business rate bill cancelled. At present, those with a ratable value below £51,000 are eligible for their bill to be cut by one third.

Additionally, one of Hunt’s best trailed policy announcements has been a promise to cut corporation tax from 19% to as low as 12.5%, a policy which has been costed at £13bn a year. His generous spending pledges have seen him receive some flak from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Hunt the self-proclaimed entrepreneur is certainly more progressive in his thinking and his ideas may just work to support independent traders on the high street who are being strangled by inflated taxes. The corporation rate cut will pay for itself making Britain an attractive base and undoubtedly bring more corporates to base themselves in the UK and with a No Deal Brexit in site, more initiatives like this is what the UK needs to survive.

The trouble is according to all the polling, Hunt has little chance of getting in. Just like the rest of us, it seems High Street retailers had better batten down the hatches as Tory Party members take the ultimate gamble in installing Johnson in to Number 10.

To read the full article please visit London Loves Business.

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Can the new tranche of Chinese tech brands take the UK by storm?

drum blog

In recent years, more Chinese brands than ever have broken new ground in Europe and continued to develop outside of their established Asian markets. One of the most immediately recognisable Chinese brands is Huawei and possibly Hisense but have you heard of Haier, Oppo or Xiaomi? Chinese consumer electronics brands have recently launched in the UK and are fast gaining traction in their respective categories since being made available on the UK high street.

We live in a society where global brands are the norm. Whilst we are, or at least believe we are, familiar with many of the brands we are exposed to, there are others that we don’t know so much about even if we buy-into them as consumers. Do we care about a brand’s origins and heritage? Or are consumer purchase decisions driven by a products’ look, functionality, usage, price point and status? If this new tranche of Chinese tech brands doesn’t focus enough on building their brands and resonance with the UK audience, will they be able to compete with their Californian cousins and achieve their full potential in the UK market?

Cleverly Haier, the world’s number one major appliance brand in terms of volume bought Hoover Candy, a traditional stalwart of the Major Domestic Appliance market in the EU which enables Haier to tap into the trust associated with a familiar European brand. Now listed in John Lewis stores, there’s brand reassurance of Haier is being established among shoppers.

Oppo, China’s leading 4G smartphone manufacturer, launched its range of mobile phones into Dixons Carphone earlier this year. With flagship models coming in at under £800 SIM free, the brand offers premium and innovative features at a fraction of the price other brands may charge. Time will tell if the brand has done enough to resonate and take a big enough market share and see a return on investment on their ICC Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon sponsorship.

Xiaomi, pronounced ‘ShwowMee’, is actually the world’s most valuable privately held company, and the third biggest smartphone maker, selling 61 million handsets last year. Xiaomi has been bold with its UK launch strategy and has opened a great new Mi store at Westfield White City. The store is familiar looking, sharing many similarities, all be it on a smaller budget, to that of its Californian cousins.

It sells a variety of products from mobile phones, TVs, smart kettles, electric scooters and other accessories in an environment where you are encouraged to play and explore. Its pricing is competitive and it’s certainly within the budgets of a far wider demographic than other brands but what it lacks is star quality. Star quality on build, packaging and its ability to give consumers that ‘feel good’ factor from an anonymous brand is essential if it’s to mean more to consumers. All possible if its proud heritage and brand storytelling was more obvious.

Tell me what Mi means to the technology industry and I may be persuaded to purchase some of today’s most competitively priced technology and become a brand advocate. Hide from me what Mi is and I may react a bit more suspiciously and feel the brand isn’t the best fit for me. Brands, wherever they are from, should be proud of their heritage and success. A confident, honest and ethical brand will help instil the necessary confidence in consumers to help a brand to gain traction and ‘win’ in a new market.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Brand collaboration is the key to a high street retail revival

The Drum Blog

The high street is dying, or so we keep hearing from all angles of the media – but is it?

No. But it is evolving to meet the needs of generational shifts in shopping habits which retailers must adapt to in order to give consumers a desirable experience. Those that respond positively to shoppers and adapt, appreciate the increased value this change offers for potential survival.

Retail is no longer there to serve the customer, it’s the customer who decides if retailers remain relevant to the high street.

Those retailers that refuse to listen are deserving of their fate. It’s not a surprise or the fault of external factors when a major retailer, who failed to adapt, calls in the administrators. Social and economic factors are not going to ‘improve’ as they are proving to be the norm – it’s just how life is now – therefore boards of major retailers need to stop procrastinating and adapt fast.

With 89% of UK sales still generated through physical retail, the desire to shop on the High Street is still prevalent, retailers need to adapt creatively to capture a slice of those sales.

To believe that your exact same format which has been successful for decades remains relevant today is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format. That’s why they’ve abandoned trusted retailers and by doing so, they are clearly stating that “it’s you, not them” that’s the problem.

Clashing styles

From traditional retail chains to independents and pop up stores, the ones that ‘get it’ are doing so to great effect. Whether it be through introducing speaker spaces within the store, to conducting free classes or work zones to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere. By also introducing other brands to coexist alongside your brand, is winning hearts and minds. Retail is changing. Changing positively but perhaps not fast enough to decrease the failures of trusted retail brands and reduce the vacant units on our high streets.

Debenhams tried this by introducing Patisserie Valerie cafes within their stores which proved fatal for both brands, partly due to their incompetence to manage their finances or understand the consumer. You don’t ‘accidently’ misplace £40m neither do you introduce a traditional patisserie into an already stale retail format such as Debenhams, in an attempt to entice new and younger shoppers. The opportunity to revive its fortunes could be taken from its past when it introduced designer names to its stable with huge success. Those designers are now only known by a generation who are 40+ and irrelevant to the shoppers needed to keep the Debenhams brand relevant on today’s high street.

With Arcadia group also struggling reputationally through the alleged actions of its high profile owner and also financially, they have a huge task ahead to transform. Reducing your retail footprint by closing stores to cut costs is not the solution, change is. But is it too late to turn some of Arcadia’s brands around?

Maybe not. The larger ‘flagship’ TopShop stores do it well by adopting shared spaces that offer consumers other brands or services like piercing or cosmetics to create an immersive shopping experience. Unfortunately, Topshop don’t seem to translate this successful format as well across the regions in the UK. Translating this ‘experience’ model across the entire estate is essential to relate to consumers who don’t necessarily have the means or desire to travel to a ‘flagship’ store.

Placing short term profit over evolution is short-sighted as this approach is somewhat ironic, a lack of investment makes you stale rather than revolutionary, making a brand irrelevant to today’s shopper.

Retailers assemble!

Those retailers who are winning have amalgamated, rather successfully, multiple brands under one roof that complement each other and often work in concert, to offer convenience for the shopper. Successful examples include the Argos purchase by Sainsbury’s and introducing Argos shop in shop (SiS) within larger Sainsbury formats and in 11 stores to include the desirable Habitat brand, which was snapped up by Argos several years back and now revived through the Sainsbury’s acquisition. This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

As the pioneer of mail order fashion, reimagining retail seems to come easy for Next who have successfully evolved its physical presence with the inclusion of SiS concepts in selected stores. Brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa can be found in the Next Oxford Street store and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store. Unsurprisingly this approach works for both anchor brand and SiS. With a staggering 2,481 stores disappearing off the High Street in 2018, the opportunity to split the overheads in tough economic times impacted by changing shopping habits, this is a successful combination for both retailer and shopper.

Those who complain that they can’t make retail work need look no further than their competition who are getting it right through understanding the zeitgeist. Shopping habits have changed with generational shifts and the glory days many failing retailers harp on about are not going to make a reappearance. It’s up to retailers to carve out a niche and appeal to the generations who now prefer both the physical and online aspects of retail, but are also seeking convenience and above all an experience.

Experience to try, taste, smell, learn, question, dwell to be part of something that transcends generations and the stereotypes of what ‘Retail’ should be. Retail can be whatever you want it to be.

Successful retail evolves to remain current and relevant to its audience. A retail renaissance is what we need.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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The glue that connects all communities

ert blog

By riding a crest of goodwill, utilising new digital channels and tapping into the networks of big brands independent retailers can punch above their weight, boosting sales and awareness.

Independent retailers have long faced competition on multiple fronts. The big threat for many years were the big chains gobbling up the high Street. Now that threat has moved online with digital pure play sites like Amazon eroding market share. The truth is not many customers are particularly sentimental about the plight of some of the bigger chains in trouble. However, the threat to local stores from the likes of Amazon and Omni Channel retailers has been met with much more concern from the public and big brands.

A series of initiatives have sprung up in defense of these traditional bastions of the high street, from independent record store day to independent retailer month. Additionally, reports from organisations like the New Economic Foundation have highlighted the benefits to local communities from spending in independent shops versus bigger stores or online. These messages have cut through. A survey last year by Pure 360 found that consumers are three times more likely to shop in independent stores than large shops in the next five years.

This approach has been noted by large brands who have started to latch onto this trend to boost their own credentials and bottom line by supporting local independent retail. Visa chose to focus its Christmas campaign on local heroes and independent stores. Visa’s focus was on switching the focus of the traditional format of a Christmas marketing campaign, from what people are buying or who they are buying for, to where they are buying things from. American Express did their bit too, with a ‘Shop Local’ campaign that rewarded AMEX customers with a £5 statement credit for shopping in local independent stores.

The digital revolution may represent a major threat to independent retailers in terms of competition, it also represents a huge opportunity in terms of marketing. Independent retailers have always had an intuitive understanding of their customers and this can be bolstered by digital channels. While local newspapers may be closing, local newspaper websites are seeing more growth than ever in readers. The explosion of SMART phones has also led to a huge increase in the figures accessing local radio and content, another great route for independents to get their messages out. This is not to mention social media, both paid and organic with the ability to offer a micro-targeting strategy and hyper local personalisation, enabled by both Facebook and Google. Clued up retailers are seeing the benefit of connecting with increasingly online communities springing up.

In electronics particularly, many product brands are wising up to the opportunity and skill local independents possess. A great example of this is Freeview. The Freeview Retail Development Team are a strategic field team, supporting independent retailers across the UK. The team are unique in that they do not sell a specific product for a specific brand. Instead, the team supports all Freeview (including Freeview, Freeview HD and Freeview Play) enabled products across all brands and stores.

Where some brand teams are selective in their retail support, the RDE team’s brand independence means they can offer the best possible service for independent retailers, cooperating with OEM brands such as Panasonic, Humax, LG and Toshiba to deliver up-to-date training on all products and services.

As well as assisting retailers through training, the Freeview team also supports independents with local marketing campaigns, in the past having managed localised radio, press and social media campaigns supporting selected retailers with a Freeview focus.

Through long-term training support, local marketing campaigns, and regular visits to ensure all staff are knowledgeable on all aspect of the brand, they help to ensure that independents are the destination of choice for Freeview customers. They understand the fact that independents can provide the glue that connects local communities.

By focusing on their strengths, connecting with these bigger brands and tapping into the needs of their customers through targeted local advertising, independent retailers can grow as a destination of choice for customers and become their local hero.

To read the full article please visit ERT Online

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Grab your piece of the action

ERT Blog

With Smart Home product sales set to boom over the coming years now is the time to get in on the action and here, Rupert Cook, Sales and Marketing Director at Gekko, looks at how this can be done.

Here at Gekko we’ve been talking about the Smart Home for over four years now. Back in 2014, we commissioned research into ‘the connected home’ and asked consumers what they thought of having digitally connected devices in their homes. The vibe coming back from the 2,000 respondents wasn’t exactly positive.  When asked about what kind of product they would consider, smart thermostats came top of the list with 44% expressing an interest. Over a quarter said they wouldn’t be interested in any form of smart device.   The principal concerns cited were expense and the technology being deemed as not necessary.

Thankfully for us all, things have moved on from then and the numbers speak for themselves. Analysis by PWC The global market for smart home is expected to be worth $50bn by 2022. Around 30% of people are planning to purchase a smart home device for the home in the next two years and looking at just one product category in the smart home arena, Smart Speakers, further illustrates the potential. In 2017 Amazon sold 33m Echo devices whilst Google dominated selling more than one Home device per second from its launch in October 2017 to mid-2018.

Consumers aren’t only purchasing smart home products; they’re also discussing the merits online. A study by Crimson Hexagon indicates that positive sentiment is growing from 60% to 80% in the last year, another sign that smart home technology sales are poised for blockbuster growth.

So what will 2019 bring for the smart home. Well CES, the annual consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas, is only just around the corner and a quick search for the subject on their website schedule brings up roughly 100 talks, seminars and events on the topic. Smart home is without a doubt going to be one of the lead stories for many journalists and the category will become more diverse, with new innovations and services coming to the mainstream. Looking beyond just the smart home, it’s worth noting that 5G technology is on it’s way in 2019 as it’s rolled out to certain cities in across the UK. With speeds 20 times faster than 4G, the advance is only going to hasten the Internet of Things and connectivity in general and will in future open up new possibilities for consumers. Everything from refrigerators and window shades to your family car will be linked, while housekeeping robots and next generation digital assistants facilitate day to day activities.

The potential is there for CE retailers to capitalise on the opportunities and as indicated by the ERT Turning Point survey back in October, 45% of respondents have been looking at the Smart Home as a new area for their businesses. There are however challenges that have meant slow consumer adoption. To be successful at selling smart home solutions, retailers need to acknowledge and overcome these barriers.

The perceived complexity of systems is one of the principal hurdles for consumers, so it’s essential that the sales approach simplifies the options available and doesn’t overwhelm the shopper. It’s easy to get carried away and attempt to impress by reeling off the endless possibilities of what can be done; ‘if you buy this, install these, connect it to that, then you’ll be able to get Alexa to run the household…’   The chances are that you’re going to elicit the response ‘Great but I’m never going to do that’.

Our Smart Shopper research from earlier in the year showed that 21% of people love the idea of the smart home tech but were intimidated by the complexities.  Look to address this and you can have these types of customer eating from the palm of your hand.

The idea of complexity isn’t helped by the challenges of market fragmentation. On a typical shop floor, product groups tend to be disconnected – smart lighting, smart speakers, thermostats, security, home appliances etc. all displayed in separate areas. This makes it hard for consumer picture the totality of what’s actually possible within their home. All the shopper can see is competing brands, competing products and competing technologies. There is a general fear that if you buy into a particular brand then you’re on a committed pathway as there is no guarantee you’ll be able to integrate with other devices or solutions.

Retailers must plan, order and merchandise to overcome these inconsistencies and create a conducive sales experience. As an example, the Google Smart Tables in some multiple retailers bring together their devices with compatible third party products such a Philips Hue and in doing so bring the category to life.

Intrinsically linked to the above points is the need for the human touch. For all the great interactive displays that can be installed to bring the concept and possibilities alive in-store, there needs to and effective sales person on hand to guide and advise the customer. Otherwise, what will happen? The shopper will do their own research from the comfort of home before making an online purchase.

In creating effective sales people, the approach to training is obviously fundamental. For retailers, sales teams should be able to present an agnostic solution, understanding the bigger smart home picture rather than focusing on specific product types. Retailers should also tap into the product training on offer from suppliers and take up any offers of seeded or loaned kit, creating users and thus advocates of the products.

Consumer education is the key to expanding the use of smart technology into the modern home and retailers sit on the front lines of that effort. For all the pessimistic talk surrounding physical retailing it should be remembered that it still accounts for 80% of consumer sales in the UK. There’s an opportunity for bricks and mortar retailers to demystify the smart home and become the shop of choice for consumers looking to invest in the tech. And our recently published study shows how shoppers desire great retail experiences, with 81%  claiming the personal touch has disappeared from customer service in modern British retailing. Moreover, a third said that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, with a fifth saying it would make them spend more. By offering up a great experience, education, advice, opinions and added value services such as installation, the smart home is certainly a category where you can battle against online retailers.

To read the full article please visit ERT

For more information on our research please visit Gekko.

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Customers want service not sci-fi from high street retailers

Blog

We all know the 2019 outlook for brick and mortar retail looks troubled and indeed it’s barely a month into the year and we’ve already seen Patisserie Valerie collapse into administration. Are we surprised? You only need to look at the makeup of the high street to see the extraordinary amount of competition facing a business like this coupled with the fact that the business hadn’t changed much since its launch. It needed to adapt and if brick and mortar retailers focus on aligning their strategies to current market conditions and take on board what customers say, a one size fits all decline isn’t inevitable.

We recently conducted a survey ‘Service, not Sci-Fi’ that looked at the reasons people were turning away from retailers but also how they might turn back. While cost cutting and staff consolidation might be the first response to disappointing figures, our survey showed this could have an immediate detrimental impact on sales. Our study found that 81% of UK shoppers felt that personal touch had disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain. Almost a third (32%) blamed an over-reliance on technology for this decline. And half of those polled thought that companies in the UK use technology to save money, rather than improve customer experience.

Despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology to sacrifice human opinion and 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% would like to see smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16% desire a VR changing room, while 14% want AR for visualise products at home and 9% seek a talking robotic assistant.

When asked what makes a great brick and mortar shopping experience, half of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor; staff that know the products (49%) and staff that go the extra mile (47%). Coupled with this, 61% of the nation would prefer to deal with someone face-to-face when complaining, while 59% liked a human interaction when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73% wanted to see someone when being issued with a refund.

And back to the impact on the bottom line – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to encourage them 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 local retailers, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them and 16% confessing to preferring talking through a purchase with someone in-store, while a quarter reveal that online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop. The convenience of a store’s location is also important according to 43% of respondents which means that retailers should consolidate their estates. Many will notice immediate effects. This only emphasises the need to carefully consider the experience provided in-store and whether their staff can deliver the expected experience.

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 their customer experience strategies to keep people coming back for more.

To read the article please visit The Drum.

To read more about our Service not Sci-fi research please visit the Gekko website.

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Let’s give retail its pride back

rs blog

Whilst technology can provide speed, convenience and even a wow factor, people are still the key to successful retailing and good sales people give shoppers a reason to visit

Looking at all the analysis and commentary relating to the ‘golden’ quarter trading figures, published in January by the UK’s major retailers, it’s clear that after a dismal November, retailers had to play a game of catch up in the closing stages of 2018. Whilst there were some positive stories such as the ‘very strong’ Christmas eve sales at John Lewis, it was less rosy for many other retailers and in 2019 it will continue to be a tricky path to success.
As we are constantly hearing, UK high street retail is taking quite a bashing but are we really surprised? How long could retail sustain so much online competition?

Everywhere you look another coffee shop or restaurant is opening to fill the empty nests left by retailers of old. We’ve seen changing retail patterns before for example during recessionary times, but this feels very different, almost like self-harm. We’re seeing a complete transition in retail in the UK. Brexit uncertainty is damaging consumer confidence and the media isn’t helping the plight of retail when all you hear is doom and gloom. The notion, right or wrong, sinks into the public psyche. Businesses are going bust, estates are shrinking, and consumers are opting to head online. It’s not a pretty picture and there needs to be a considerable amount of effort into halting the slide.

Whilst some retailers are taking an innovative approach to how they engage with their customers on the high street, many appear to need additional inspiration. I’ve read many articles lately that talk about how technology and innovation will transform the in-store shopping experience and save the high street; self-service checkouts; robot assistants; augmented and virtual reality.
However, a recent study we conducted, titled ‘Service not Sci-fi’ revealed that despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology at the sacrifice of humans’ opinions and 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 9% a talking robot assistant.

An astonishing 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. And 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 (49%) and staff that go the extra mile (47%).

Consumers want to do business with real people and have real conversations. And businesses take heed – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22%) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, imagine converting that to sales? Over a third (34%) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer, not great in the current climate.

So perhaps retailers have got their strategy wrong? Whilst technology can provide speed, convenience and even a wow factor, people are still the key to successful retailing and good sales people give shoppers a reason to visit. If bricks-and-mortar retailing is to thrive it needs to recognise that there is a changing role for stores. There needs to be a shift from transactional retailing to experiential. There needs to shift from till operator to sales consultant. This requires good teams on the shop floor and with all the negative commentary surrounding the high street it is difficult to attract talent but perhaps this is where retailers should focus their efforts?

Retail remains a rewarding career where those involved take pride in the service they provide. This culture should be representative of all retailers, however that’s about culture not proposition. With a change in mindset for both the retailers and their store teams, then it’s possible to bring back the pride in delivering the optimum customer journey and in doing so enhance the experience for all.

To read the full article visit Retail Sector.

For more information on Gekko’s recent ‘Service not Sci-Fi’ study please visit our Research Page.

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First steps for Mothercare: will it save the troubled brand?

Mothercare blog

A couple of weeks ago British retailer Mothercare released its first significant ad campaign in a decade entitled ‘First Steps’ intended to capture those first moments parents experience. This campaign comes following the news that the retailer will close 50 of its 139 stores by June 2019 with 900 potential job losses. This decision is driven by the fact that the longstanding brand experienced pre-tax loss of almost £73 million for the financial year to March 2018 and it’s just announced blooming half-year losses. So will the First Steps campaign assist to turn the retailers’ fortunes round?

The campaign must be applauded for being very ‘real’ -using images and models which resonate perfectly in the ‘real’ world. Avoiding the Instagram perfection and clichés many may be led to believe are indicative of motherhood and parenting, it has a comforting reality of life across any demographic and nationality. However, for me, it doesn’t speak to a wider audience and as a ‘turnaround’ campaign, the message needs to be broader to attract all pockets to come and spend in-store.

The ads are articulated beautifully, drawing on the raw emotion of being a parent and it will resonate with parents or those expecting, no doubt drawing them into or back to the brand. However, the ad seems to have forgotten people who aren’t in the same position, perhaps an aunt, uncle, godparent or friend who has not yet or has no desire to experience parenting, whom therefore may not share the same emotional connection.

They are also potential shoppers, some may argue with more disposable income, who also need to be attracted to the brand to spend. The wider the appeal of the ad, the more it increases the odds to attract shoppers of any kind. Surely, this should be the objective of this desperately needed turnaround campaign which is all about increasing sales.

In the UK the average annual birth rate is 670,000 births (Office of National Statistics) and the market value for this sector is £7.3bn and estimated to grow by 2021 +2.3% in clothing and 4.4% in Footwear (Euromonitor) and research from 2017 indicates that 64% of shoppers prefer to touch and feel products in this category, 48% prefer to research products in-store resulting in 58% of sales created in physical retail (Pragmarket). The opportunity for growth is therefore evident for any retailer in this sector, especially an established brand like Mothercare, as while it’s unlikely that the nation will stop giving birth, people can be influenced where we shop.

The customer experience must reflect the emotional journey the brand takes its audience through in these ads and translate it onto the shop floor. The creative and sentiment that’s applied to the ad, the real and caring traits it communicates must be applied to staff, the store layout, its ranging, staff training and the advice they give to a new and likely tired parent or complete novice when shopping for infants.

A clear message which translates from ATL to the in-store experience is crucial to ensure a clear measurement of ATL and to convert awareness to revenue. A successful ATL may well bring customers back but a poor customer experience may make that crucial first hello, the last.

And here’s the real dichotomy for Mothercare, do they invest more money in the remaining estate to make the shops a truly engaging experience and destination for people or leave them wondering what their role is in the ‘real world’ – I know which strategy my money is on!

For the full article visit The Drum

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New survey by Gekko reveals retail staff are more influential than celebrities and vloggers

Gekko - Google Retail blog image

The results from a recent survey published today by field marketing agency Gekko entitled ‘Shopper Influencers’ reveals that the bricks and mortar retail environment continues to play a significant role in influencing shoppers purchasing decisions across both general and high value goods. The survey by OnePoll was conducted among 2000 UK consumers between 18 and 55+.

Even among today’s tech savvy 18 to 24 years old’s more than 40% prefer to head in-store to see, touch and experience a product before buying, rising to 58% for the over 55’s. Most surprising is that 38% of 18 to 24 year old’s want a personal service and recommendation from in-store staff, the highest among all of the age categories. Only a small proportion of 18 to 24 year old shoppers are swayed by celebrity endorsement (18%) or the opinion of vlogger’s and bloggers (28%).

The influence of friends (70%) and online reviews (71%) among this age group is significantly higher in making product purchase decisions and this is consistent across all age groups. And when it comes to high value items such as TV’s, home appliances and luxury items, the trend continues with online reviews, personal recommendation and the in-store experience rating as the most important influences across all age categories.

When it comes to looking at the key influencers across product sectors there are some notable trends: 

  • Within the tech sector, online reviews from other people are still heavily relied upon (38%) among 18 to 24 year olds but interestingly this is also the case for all age groups with (35%) for over 55’s.
  • Similar to tech, for home appliances, user reviews rate highly across all groups (32%) 18 to 24 year olds, rising up to (46%) among 45 to 54s.
  • For beauty and fashion, reviews from other people score highly across all age groups but in this sector, unlike the others, the influence of bloggers and vloggers is much more highly rated, although only among the younger 18-24 generation (32%) for beauty and (23%) for fashion.

When 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%.

Daniel Todaro, Managing Director of Gekko, said: “According to the ONS, while online sales continue to rise, e-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales July to August 2017 was still only 16.4%.  The findings of this study show that the shop floor is clearly still winning in considered purchases, therefore marketers need to invest in making the experience as good as it can be. When a shopper is ready to make a purchase they will look for advice and guidance from people who have experience of using the product be that friends, family, other users or experts in-store. Consumers today are much more savvy and recognise that celebrities and vloggers have been paid for their endorsement, while time and money spent working with staff on the shop floor will in fact pay for itself through category development and increased sales at a higher average sales price, making your marketing work harder.”

Read the article here

Source: Gekko

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