Tag Archives: Covid

New Gekko survey finds the majority of shoppers have returned to stores

With retail lockdowns across the UK now easing, our research has found that 88% of shoppers have returned to physical stores in the first two weeks and felt good about it!

At Gekko we are always looking to better understand the customer journey at all stages of the shopping cycles in all categories. We do this to gain a wider understanding of the retail environment, allowing us to better train our staff and serve our clients.

Back in February, while non-essential retail was still subjected to lockdown restrictions, we surveyed consumers to gauge their shopping intentions once lockdown ended. Our Great British Retail Take Off survey revealed that there was a huge pent up demand to return to the high street with 70% of people planning on visiting stores as much, or more than pre-pandemic and with key motivators being the ability to physically interact with products and have an enjoyable experience.

With the majority of retail restriction now lifted, Gekko wanted to revisit the subject and gain an insight into whether the public have returned to stores in the levels that said they would in the previous survey. Further from this, we wanted to see how the public felt about the way stores are trying to keep them safe. The survey, which was conducted between 26th-30th April, two weeks following the reopening of non-essential retail, provides an insight into the positive sentiments of UK shoppers have regarding stores reopening.

Indications are that physical retail is back, and shoppers are excited to return. Through the responses from this survey, and the comparison between these results and our previous Great British Retail Take-Off survey, we are able to see several noticeable trends.

In a win for bricks and mortar shops, people have visited stores more in the two weeks since restrictions were eased than they did pre-pandemic (previously predicted at 12%, now at 18%). This is backed up by the fact that 87% of people returned to physical stores at least once in the 2 weeks after lockdowns were eased, compared with only 70% who said they were looking forward to returning to store in our previous results.

The overwhelming majority (80%) of people who had returned to store felt that stores were doing enough to make them feel safe. Retail has continued to adapt at every stage of the pandemic, and the fact that so many are willing and able to get back out and shop safely is testament to that.

About the research -The online consumer survey was conducted by Gekko between 26th – 30th April 2021.

To find out more about this survey please visit our website or to obtain a full copy of the report, please contact us at info@gekko-uk.com

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Getting ready for the post-covid retail boom

From being in the grip of the second wave in a bleak mid-Winter two months ago with so much uncertainty and anxiety there really has been a remarkable turnaround due to the determination of all to fix this situation. A majority of the population have been vaccinated and sunnier days are here literally, well almost, but also metaphorically. The Bank of England say the economy is all set to bounce back quickly, driven by a boom that will dwarf predecessors in its intensity and size, predicting that Britons will spend around 5% of the estimated £250bn of savings accumulated over the past year. Others predict nearer 20%, which would still be £50bn.

It is already time to start predicting what will be the key drivers for growth in this transitional period. The roaring twenties were brought about after hardship which triggered a rebound in consumer spending and prosperity. Even if what is to come doesn’t quite last as long, there will still be a heightened passion to enjoy a return to normality and indulgence in the things consumers have missed out on the most. Whilst the 1920’s was more than a lifetime ago, most of us remember the 90’s. The latter part became ‘cool Britannia’ creating a wave of confidence which undoubtedly became the precursor for the shared will and determination to be ourselves today and do it with swagger.

So how do brands and retailers plan for this, project their swagger and reward customers who have remained loyal? Gekko has pulled together some key insights and trends to consider with retail doors open once again.

Consumer confidence is back

Research by McKinsey & Company shows that optimism regarding the UK’s economic recovery is at the highest recorded level during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite different generations experiencing decreased household income and/or increased savings, optimism has also led to an increase in spending. Forty-seven percent of consumers showed an intent to splurge in 2021 to reward themselves for the trials and tribulations of the past year. Younger consumers, especially Gen Z, 71% are indicating a higher intent to spend or treat themselves, and are keen to get back to enjoying themselves.

The rise of localism

It is likely that a significant proportion of pent up spend may continue on local businesses which have found plenty of support during the pandemic. YouGov found out last year that 64% of people want to support local businesses and buy local products. This has been borne out by our own recent survey of predicted consumer behaviour post-lockdown. 35% of respondents said they have purchased from a local or independent store that they would not have done pre-pandemic. Meanwhile 52% of men, and 49% of women have been more loyal than not to their high street stores. While the expectation might have been the very oldest might be the most loyal to the High Street, interestingly 35-44 year olds were the most loyal, with 74% professing loyalty to their High Street. This shows the strength of multi-age support we have had for the local businesses who have so supported us during this time.

Although the trend may quieten once all stores reopen, local share of business will remain higher than it was pre-pandemic, and is an area to utilise for retailers. The personal experience and convenience of local can be tapped into. With most people still working from home, local shopping is set to continue this year and beyond to meet the needs of its immediate community.

Innovations led by physical retail are set to continue

An encouraging aspect of the past year has been the ability of smart retailers and indeed physical businesses of all description to pivot and adapt to survive. While there have been some high profile casualties, the reality remains those who have been nimble have seen the benefit. It has also shown up the myth that all innovation occurs within the digital realm. It is likely that more than a few of the innovations will last in this new retail era which continues to evolve. For example there is renewed and growing enthusiasm for click and collect, due to the convenience and hygienic aspects. It is now an embedded part of many consumer journeys, especially in grocery shopping, but also increasingly in all non-essential retail. Our own research has shown that over 35% of people want to see this trend continue even after the pandemic. Retailers need to react to those continuing to want to use this method. An obvious example being upselling products in a collection environment.

There will be a continuing overlap of online and offline in some purchasing journeys. In response, retailers should make sure they offer a slick omnichannel experience which will appeal to all generations. Click and collect will remain a great way to appeal to Generation Z. This is an audience that wants to shop online but also have a focus on sustainability with concerns about the environmental impact of the deliveries in terms of the distance travelled and packaging.

Customer experience is crucial

With online shopping now fully embedded, physical retailers need to emphasise the instore user experience to provide that differentiating factor from the online realm. A good customer experience means your customers will spend more. In fact, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. The more expensive the item, the more they are willing to pay, according to a research from PWC. CX also influences on-the-spot purchasing too, as 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience. A Walker study found that at the end of 2020, customer experience had overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator. This becomes increasingly more important amongst those generations that intend to spend more than they’ve saved.

Looking at our research, when asked what makes people want to return to the High Street, the experience was the thing that was really missed. 62% said it was the ability to see, hold and try a product. while 52% miss the ability to browse. The same number, 52% reported the sheer enjoyment of shopping as a key factor in returning.

Retailers should react by stimulating the senses and having the right experts instore. People who truly understand the product, can answer questions and can close a sale. This is something the online world can not replicate. To complement the expert, think about presenting those products in an appealing way. You will want to focus on products that that have increased in popularity during the pandemic – those supporting lives now more centred at home. Make them visually appealing with great displays and demos. Ensure you have clearly labelled product details, features and benefits and ensure any promotions are clearly highlighted, ie. what it integrates or works well with.

Prepare for the megapeak!

As we bounce back from these long months closed, retailers have the opportunity to make up for lost time with a real focus on peak trading times and trends. We may not all be going on holiday but we will be taking holiday and enjoying summer as best we can. This year peak trading times will return like no other year. In Q4 2020, we saw the advent of what could be described as a 10 week ‘mega peak’ that upended the usual promotional strategies of the season. Average spend went up to £86.06 (+£7.22 vs 2019). The goalposts were shifted once Amazon announced that Prime Day would move into October from July. Black Friday and Christmas plans that have become retail tradition saw this newcomer arriving earlier and reacted by also shifting their strategies accordingly, leading to an extended mega peak. The expectations are now set for this year, and it is unlikely that Amazon will give up its new slot without a fight. Wunderman Thompson predict it will again aim to be the one to kick off the festive promotional period.

Others will need to get their operations ready to counter, the right marketing, offers, and consumer experience will be vital. At least this time they have more notice. We may have changed in many ways but the propensity of shoppers to spend as a key way back to normal life looks certain.

Retailers need to be ready as we look forward to the boom and continuous change.

To read the full article please visit Retail Sector.

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Five positive signposts on the road to retail recovery in 2021

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

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

Weathered and tested

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

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

A shot in the arm for consumer confidence

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

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

Retailers have embraced an omnichannel strategy

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

Pent-up demand for physical retail experience

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

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’

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

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

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Covid-19 is temporary, but attention to the environment must be permanent

The Drum Covoid is Temporary

We’re living in a society where we’re constantly encouraged to do ‘better for the planet’. And I don’t disagree. But we’re at a point of inflection when a lot of people don’t know what’s best for the planet. From fake news to real news – it’s information overload everywhere you turn.

Recycling your plastic should be simple, but that’s another article depending on where you live and which type of plastic it is. Buy more sustainable products. Shampoo in a block is great if you have the money to buy more expensive products.

And there’s the biggest conundrum for most people when we’re thinking about the environment and greenhouse gas emissions. If I order online for delivery am I burning more carbon than necessary? Or is it more environmentally friendly to go to the shops, buy a less environmentally friendly product but save the delivery van a journey? How we expect people to know the answer, when many of us in retail don’t know it, is beyond me! It’s all rather complicated.

The impact of FMCG

I read an interesting study from the American Chemical Society that looked into the estimated emissions created by UK sales of FMCG goods, typically low-priced toiletries, packaged foods and cleaning supplies. Although shoppers have traditionally bought these items at brick and mortar shops, online sales are increasing.

The study compared the carbon footprints of three different shopping practices: old fashioned ‘bricks and mortar’ shopping and the two main forms of e-commerce, bricks and clicks and pure play (which both have different supply chain configurations). Included in the three models were emissions from transport, warehouse storage, delivery and packaging.

The results showed that the total emmissions per item purchased from bricks and mortar retailers were higher than bricks and clicks vendors in 63% of cases, but lower than pure play in 81% of cases. It appears that more items are usually purchased from bricks and clicks retailers is used and this leads to a smaller carbon footprint per item than for the same shopping trip via a brick and mortar retailer. Another factor is, of course, that one van driver bringing multiple deliveries into one area will create fewer emissions than all those people driving to the shops.

The study made some clear but obvious recommendations for consumers for cutting emissions across all three shopping categories: walking, cycling and trip chaining for brick and mortar; and purchasing from a single retailer and bundling for bricks and clicks and for pure play online retailers. Importantly for pure play businesses – whose share of the FMCG category is on the increase – switching to electric cargo bikes could cut emissions by 26%.

I’ve tried to simplify what is actually a complex study, but it does highlight the dilemma and responsibility we have as consumers and retailers to the planet. In a recent online shopping survey we conducted among 2,000 consumers, 73% said they were concerned about the environmental impact of excessive packaging, 75% single use plastics and 42% multiple deliveries to one address. There is a clear will from consumers to want to do better for the planet but it’s far too complex for them to work out how. So, retailers, trade bodies and governments need to do more to educate consumers so they can make the right choices not just any choice.

Our current Covid-19 situation is only temporary, so my mantra as we come out of the other side of it is just to take a little more time to think before you shop.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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