Tag Archives: Daniel Todaro

Luxury Retailing in Times of Crisis — Regaining the Crown

The luxury landscape is changing and world-renowned brands are feeling the impact from consumers’ changing behaviour, a post lockdown drop in revenues, and higher costs of raw materials. Gekko MD Daniel Todaro dives deeper into the topic.

I read with interest about how Luxury Fashion Boutiques opened in Paris, one of the first capitals to do so. This created much excitement amongst those fashion-starved aficionados and trend-setters.

I’ve said it before: Retail is possibly one of the most dynamic industries globally and luxury brands lead in this area of expertise in many ways, like no other. Retail, in particular luxury retail, has had to continuously adapt to changing consumer behaviours over the decades, as well as the trends that drive the desire to shop. Offering choice that appeals to every distinct generation and their character traits is essential to maintain desire.

At the high end, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Hermes are offering customers private shopping sessions; no doubt, these will be to their loyal customer base. Done creatively and properly, these sessions will also offer deviation from the so-called ‘new normal’ to create another level of exclusivity and brand attachment.
For others, though, with the need to quarantine for 48 to 72 hours garments that have been handled, let alone worn, as well as disinfecting changing rooms after every use, it becomes challenging to maintain that allure of a luxury brand.

This challenge is perhaps demonstrated by the lack of customers just one week after re-opening, queuing to cross the threshold of ‘fashion heaven’. In the first week, the initial rush drew masses that complied with the carefully orchestrated queues. These excitable brand devotees could not wait to indulge themselves on May 11th, with crowds flocking to the boutiques, but were queue-free just one week on. With no tourists in the city and the initial rush satisfied for those desperate, the demand has dropped.

So, the challenge for luxury brands is how do you make it matter for consumers? Why am I queuing and what do I need the items for when there is nowhere to go, no bars, clubs, or parties to attend. With restaurants not open for that special occasion or to meet friends and live events, awards, launches or red-velvet rope to get waved through, why bother shopping? No one will see that new watch, bag, dress, or killer heels, so now the thought of spending your money deviates to other activities and worse, alternative brands and products.

Shopping per se and, in particular within the luxury sector, will not disappear — well, not just yet. But how a brand targets an audience to shop differently, with purpose, may diminish if not handled innovatively. Therefore, learning from this rather frustrating lockdown is an opportunity to move away from the conventional norm and spearhead change that delivers the purpose many expect.

With a forecasted 30% decline in the personal luxury goods category this financial year and whose reliance on China accounts for 35% of the luxury goods market, it’s becoming more challenging for brands to appeal to their once established audience and broaden their reach and appeal beyond just being luxury.

Examples of those feeling the impact of the changing luxury landscape are, surprisingly, the masters of luxury. Kering, the owner of brands like Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Balenciaga, reported a 15.4% drop in revenue in Q1. Likewise, LVMH, owner of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Fenty, and Givenchy, reported a 15% drop in revenue for the same period.

Luxury brands, from Chanel to Louis Vuitton, have increased prices for some of their most coveted products as they seek to make up for lost sales during weeks of lockdown. Chanel said, in late May, that it was increasing prices for its iconic handbags and some small leather goods by between 5% and 17% around the world, as the pandemic had pushed up the cost of certain raw materials.

Jewelers are not immune, either. Exports are down 21.9% for Swiss watches, with the closure of watch factories and their global retail network hitting their sales hard, even more so as this sector deliberately avoids online with only 5% of new watch sales transacted online. The result is that the total volume has decreased by 43.1%.

Therefore, the need for immediate change is at the top of the to-do list for every brand, whether it be luxury, exclusive, or desired.

The Perspex screens, social-distancing floor stickers, masked sales associates, and complete avoidance techniques employed to stop shoppers touching items, won’t be acceptable to many. More so, this increases the impact on brands whose equity diminishes as precautionary measures blur the lines between exclusivity and normality.

What retail and the luxury sector are experts at achieving is evolution. The innovation in customer experience we see on the high street more often than not started life in the luxury sector: Burberry, with its iPad-clutching sales associates several years back is a prime example, now common across the channel. Therefore, while brands and retailers start implementing reopening plans, it’s an opportunity to think about how the next generation of retailing begins, and many will be looking to learn from luxury brands.

Change requires a flair for dynamism to aid survival and create those meaningful connections through an omnichannel, eco-friendly, societal, and technology-driven approach. Enhancing the customer journey post-crisis to continue the brand experience for all consumers, more so for those who chose to shop with you, is essential in creating long-lasting emotional brand engagements that convert naturally, without pretension, into valuable sales.

Article originally published on Branding.com

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Retail will need to adjust to the commercial realities of Covid-19

PCRMAY2020

Gekko Field Marketing’s MD, Daniel Todaro, discusses whether the Coronavirus will present the opportunity to re-appraise the retail experience and increase communities’ appreciation of the high street

So here we are amidst the most bizarre of situations that no one in their lifetime has experienced. There’s never been a global pandemic or an instance that has distanced human beings to this extent. I’m optimistic and believe that we will come out of this experience as better business people with a new perspective to how we go about running our companies.

The pandemic has seen all but essential retail close with figures published by Google showing an 85% drop in footfall to retail destinations over the first two weeks of the pandemic, marginally improving by 3% to 82% in week three.

It’s true to say that some businesses may regrettably not survive the economic impact of the situation, which is indeed unprecedented, but for some it could have been avoidable if those who hold the power acted more responsibly. Talking Retail published some embarrassing statistics surrounding the government’s Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which saw only 1.4% of applicants successfully receiving loans. Putting this into perspective, of the estimated 300,000+ firms that applied, only 4,200 businesses have received rescue loans from banks. That was three weeks after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the scheme alongside the Employee Retention Scheme, more commonly known by employees as the Furlough Scheme. This in itself provided some false hope for employers and employees. As to this day, it is still not fully understood by all because the Government is yet to publish full qualifying criteria or the portal for companies to apply.

Now, if you’re one of those businesses that has generated virtually no revenue and is still covering your overheads with what cash flow you have remaining, I suspect a loan would be useful to ensure that you could at least pay your staff the 80% the government has promised to cover. What most don’t understand is that you still require the cash flow to cover your payroll, even at 80%, whilst you wait for the funds in the form of the grant from the Government.

Whilst I do not wish to criticise the Government’s approach, as these initiatives are brilliant and what you’d expect from the world sixth largest economy to protect its GDP and lessen the impact on the welfare state, they are however reactionary. The speed of announcements for these knee jerk initiatives has unfortunately meant that the communication to all was poor. Compounded by misunderstandings as lawyers, accountants and advisors speculated on what the government would do forgetting to explain to small business that none of this advice being offered was not actually based on fact.

As a small business you rely on many outlets to advise you accordingly and help guide a business in its decision making. My fear is that all this unqualified advice is making matters worse and creating more issues for when we are ready to get back to business as normal, as there remains many unknowns that impact future planning.

It’s been reported that in March, retail declined 4.3% and non- food purchases online accounted for 40% of all online sales. As a marketing agency that specialises in technology and leisure brands, this statistic is of particular interest to me. So what can marketers, sales people and retail do to ensure technology and CE retail are able to come back with a bang?

Our fundamental societal roles have changed – working, shopping, education etc. – as well as our attitudes to the community roles we all took for granted. Those truly crucial to society – our NHS, bin men, local butchers, bakers, milk deliveries etc. have been elevated to heroes and saviours, doing all they can to serve their local communities.

So, the question we’re all pondering is will it lead to a reappraisal of the role of independent retailers in the community? Will consumers look differently upon what they may have previously considered out of date. We are all shopping local, where stores are open, from the independent hardware store to the corner shop and long term, I know my shopping habits will now incorporate these stores often and not in an ‘emergency’.

And what’s come to the fore more than anything is that local shops are more than just places to buy products.

So with a new captive audience and acceptance of service to society, how can independent retailers revive their fortunes by socialising their new audience and retain them through experiences? We all understand the power of retail experiences, but we now need to plan ahead and look at this with a post- COVID-19 social lens. Because let’s face it, the first thing people will want to do after lock down is go to pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas, shops and thoroughly enjoy themselves with those they’ve missed, and experience the feeling they’ve been deprived of for some time. This includes the experience of physical retail and reliving the enthusiasm of consumerism as a pastime, rather than having another brown box left outside your door.

Therefore, whilst still in lockdown, plan how you’re going to come out fighting. Use the time to think about what you could do certain things differently to enhance the experience – smaller range, bigger ranging, specialisation, marketing, PR, advertising, training, services.

Engage with your brand partners and encourage them to support you with offers, training and local marketing budgets. And then add to this how to socialise it – free coffee, fitting service, desk space to speak to someone face-to-face, new displays, improved window dressing, giving back to the community, offering key worker discounts?

Shopping habits of the great British nation are undoubtedly going to change after a period of social distancing. Retail will need to adjust to the commercial realities of the COVID-19 crisis and the long term effects it will inevitably create. But when this is all over, if marketed right, it could create opportunities to entice shoppers back through the doors with reopening parties and offers to kick start buying again and encouraging the nation to treat itself.

The treat aspect is essential to bring back the joy of shopping and in doing so creating an opportunity for brands and retailers to make shopping fun and personal again.

Read PCR Magazine here

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Smaller players need the support of big retailers like never before

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.

Read the article at Retail Sector

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Brits want ‘service over sci-fi’ from retailers: Gekko study

A study published 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.

Article published on Marketing Industry News

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MOP UP THOSE SMART SALES

Many people are afraid of smart tech, don’t understand it or how it can make life easier. This is where independent retailers have a golden opportunity, says Daniel Todaro, MD of field marketing agency Gekko

Gekko has once again proudly collaborated with ERT on this year’s Turning Point survey as part of the ERT Awards. It will be interesting to see what the findings are this year in relation to the smart home.

Last year’s survey revealed that 38 per cent of independent retailers that responded didn’t believe that selling the smart home was for them.

Now, I may not have a crystal ball, but I do have a clear view of the category’s growth since then and would be shocked if the figure remained this low in 2018.

I have commented a great deal over the past couple of years that the smart home is something to be embraced and is a category where physical retailers have an opportunity to outsmart their online competitors. It is early days for the category and there is the potential for a lack of understanding on the part of the consumer, made worse by scepticism about the real-world benefits.

Concerns about security are also a factor and so an assisted sales approach, where shoppers can properly experience products and talk to an expert, can make all the difference. In providing a superior customer experience, sales and your customer base can be developed to achieve smart profits.

Popularity
What is for certain, the smart home’s popularity isn’t going to fade – it’s no fad. This is evident from the fact that three-quarters of people have heard of the term smart home compared with just over half (57 per cent) in 2015. And with a current average of 10 connected devices per UK household, we aren’t scaling back on our connected addiction.

BBC’s Panorama recently predicted that by 2020 there would be 420 million connected devices across the UK. The smart home now even has its own ‘week’ – May 21-27 this year. This was a showcase for the very best in smart, connected and integrated home technology.

Its purpose was to inform, educate and reassure UK consumers about the benefits and opportunities of living in a smart, connected way.

Research conducted by Smart Home Week forecast that 42 per cent of consumers see the majority of UK homes being smart within the next 10 years.But I think it will be higher and sooner.

From my point of view, running an agency that loves both tech and retail, we’re passionate about understanding how the smart home is being marketed and identifying what the appeal is for the consumer, so we can support our brands in retail as best we can. Key to achieving this is identifying consumer purchasing habits and the sales opportunities the category presents.

One area to consider is what to range and sell. A lot has been said about smart speakers and voice-enabled AI devices integrating with home entertainment and that these are perhaps an easy, and relatively affordable, route into the world of smart technology. This is true, but we shouldn’t ignore some of the other product areas.

I think that smart home appliances is a category the general public is becoming increasingly aware of. While smart fridges and washing machines have been around for a while, high prices and doubts about their true benefits have meant they haven’t see adoption by the masses.

Active
Hoover Candy has been active recently with above-the-line campaigns talking about their app-enabled products.

While some may see a remotely accessible camera in an oven as unnecessary, many will warm to their Vision oven, where an integrated touch-screen provides recipes, instruction and a live view of what’s cooking. As lifestyles change, so do our opinions and habits. What we may have considered a ‘novelty’ may now be relevant to the lifestyle of the generation that these products are aimed at.

Smart tech is also extending to SDAs and outside into the garden space. Smart robotic vacuum cleaners are increasingly popular and a new device to me is the iRobot Braava mopping robot. In the garden, robotic lawnmowers are a desirable piece of tech and the market is expected to grow 20 per cent by 2022.
Apart from what type of smart products to consider selling, I think the approach taken in-store by sales staff should also be factored in – and I don’t mean reviewing sales skills, but rather appreciating how the end-user uses smart tech.

To better understand the consumer, we wanted to take a slightly different tack from previous studies and look at those who have bought into the smart home, how they use their products and what their concerns are.

Gekko’s Smart Home Shopper poll delivered some useful insights that can help brands and retailers increase their profits.

The study found that 56 per cent of adults had bought the latest must-have smart-home tech, including wi-fi controlled security cameras, heating systems and speakers, but had been left scratching their heads when they got them home as they had little idea what to do with the stuff they’ve bought. More than 30 per cent of the consumers we asked said they regretted buying at least one or more items of smart-home technology because it proved so difficult to get up and running, while many said they couldn’t get all their devices to connect – which is surely the whole point of having a ‘smart home’.

Coupled with this, nearly a third of them said they never read instructions or manuals when they buy a new piece of kit and 21 per cent admitted that, although they had a love of tech, they were intimidated by the complexities of it.

Forty-five per cent of people said the trickiest bit of kit to install was security equipment, including app-controlled doorbells, motion sensors and CCTV, while 28 per cent couldn’t get their smart lighting to work. And more than a third (35 per cent) came unstuck when installing their smart heating systems. Yet, these are the most popular items to purchase within the smart-home tech product portfolio.

And despite its current popularity, 30 per cent of adults that had purchased a smart speaker, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, didn’t understand all its functionality and smart features.

There’s clearly a customer need here that’s not being fulfilled by retailers. Smart-home tech is popular, but people don’t know how to fully utilise it to meet their lifestyle needs – whether that’s convenience, money saving, leisure time or learning.

Significant 
One significant barrier for shoppers is concern over how secure smart home devices are. Our study highlighted this, as did the findings from Smart Home Week, which found that 62 per cent of people were worried about the threat of smart homes being hacked. So be prepared to overcome this potential barrier and offer up some security advice as part of the sales process, or at least be able to point customers in the right direction.

All this is a great opportunity, especially for bricks-and-mortar retailers, to enhance the customer experience within the smart-home category by developing an environment where consumers can ‘play’, and a retail team that can articulate the features of each product in detail and match consumer needs to product performance.

The customer journey in retail needs enhancing to increase profitability and as the smart home establishes itself deeper across multiple categories, the approach in store must evolve to meet trends and the popularity of smart products.

Through an increased effort, what you do at the point of purchase will keep people coming back to traditional bricks-and-mortar stores for experiences they’ll never get online.

Top tips to sell smart tech

  • Show products in a proper context by displaying them in the way that consumers will use them, emphasising real-world use and benefits.
  • Demonstrate usability by linking the smart gadgets to one another as some clever retailers have done in selected stores, emphasising that they don’t have to be standalone products.
  • Seed or loan products to your sales staff so that they can become users and advocates and bring their real-life into the sales conversation.
  • Ask your suppliers and brands for support. Product training for your sales staff or brand ambassadors to engage with shoppers at peak times will all help drive business and a positive in-store experience. Whether directly, or using an agency such as Gekko, encourage brands to provide support on a campaign or ongoing basis to assist in maintaining continuity of customer experience in line with the advertising messaging.

Read the full article at ERTOnline

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GIVE THEM A RETAIL EXPERIENCE THAT’S WORTH THE TRIP

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You will convert more customers if you sell them a ‘solution’ that solves their problem rather than a product at a price that may be cheaper online anyway, says Daniel Todaro, managing director at field marketing agency Gekko

Let’s be honest, it’s a challenge out there in retail and every one of us shudders when we see superb businesses like Maplin hanging up the ‘closing down’ signs.

It’s now more important than ever to offer a solution-based sales model to your customers, converting as many as possible of those precious shoppers who take the time to visit your store.

Whatever their motivation for coming into your store, consumers are looking for a solution to a lifestyle problem. As a retailer, it’s within your power to provide this solution, offering consumers the right product for their needs and reinforcing why traditional retail is still the best platform to buy consumer electronic products.

Overall online sales were up 13.9 per cent year on year in January, with footfall down 6.6 per cent and it was almost 12 per cent down in London and the South-East.

When you look at the CE category, this was only up 4.4 per cent online, suggesting that shoppers are more hesitant to go online for big-ticket, considered purchases.

That first face-to-face interaction is critical. Sales staff should be asking key questions of consumers to discover why they are in the store, their needs, budget and motivations, in order to create the foundations of a solution-sales approach.

Is your shopper looking to buy new, upgrade or has something broken down? What do they currently have? What features do they require? Where will it be used? How often? Is it a primary or secondary device? What is their preferred price range? Do they need it installed? A customer wants reassurance that the product will meet their needs.

It is important to ensure your staff can demonstrate the product and explain the benefits. And don’t ignore what the shopper tells you, so that the features link naturally to their needs. This could make all the difference to their decision to purchase.

If shoppers can see how the product will solve their unique ‘problem’, they will go away satisfied and come back for more. Online will never be able to provide this level of service, so retailers need to take control of their destiny and provide consumers with an experience that was worth the trip.

Gekko’s OnePoll ‘influencer’ research has conclusively proved that ‘50 per cent off’ shoppers still want to head to a store to see, touch and experience a product in person. Now you’ve got them in your store, you should also know that our research showed that 35 per cent are influenced by recommendations from shop staff.

So the training you give your staff is possibly the most important part of achieving effective solution-based sales. Imagine how great it would be to convert that 35 per cent. If a shopper has confidence in a salesperson who focuses on their needs as a whole, rather than just on a particular product, they are more likely to purchase. You will instil confidence in your shopper and also build that all-important relationship that converts them into a customer who will keep coming back.

If you don’t believe me, the research also showed that that only 10 per cent of customers were influenced by celebrity endorsement, or 15 per cent by bloggers, etc. This is because there is no tangible engagement with, or as much trust in, these opinions to create a meaningful relationship. Compare this with the 71 per cent who are influenced by word of mouth from friends and family. The back-and-forth conversation needed between shopper and salesperson for solution selling is vital for building the trust needed to buy based on their recommendation.

This underlines the importance of having well-trained staff that know the products inside out and the lifestyle issues that each product helps address. We work with our brands to understand what strategy works by measuring sales before, during and after. One example from a connected-home partner confirmed that the number of units sold in three store groups in the 10 days after a briefing and merchandising campaign increased by 45 per cent. But 10 days later, sales dropped marginally, as staff didn’t continue the solution-selling techniques they’d been trained in.

The need to retain and continue the solution-based approach highlights the need for regular training and is proven to convert your shoppers into customers today, tomorrow and long into the future.

Visit ERTOnline to view the original article

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Are retailers providing an experience that’s worth the trip?

Save the shops! A mantra I’ve heard numerous times having worked in retail for the last 20 years. Yes, consumers love shopping online, but there’s no doubt they want to preserve the ‘real’ shopping experience especially for high-value tech/electrical products.

Whether they are looking to upgrade an existing device, buy into a new product category such as the smart home, or make a distress purchase to replace a product that has failed, consumers are looking for a solution to a lifestyle problem. As a retailer, it’s within your power to provide this solution, offering consumers the right product for their needs and, in doing so, reinforcing why traditional retail is still the best platform to buy technology products.

I think there’s a big disconnect between what consumers need from retailers and the experience they get. We’ve recently seen the news that Maplin has collapsed into administration, yet the sale of tech/electrical goods is on the increase – one of the fastest growing categories. Consumer electronics retailing lends itself like no other as a tool for retailers to be more dynamic in showcasing solutions and brands to lure consumers.

The information gap

Let’s look for example at the popularity of streaming and how it’s driving the sale of hardware. Streaming is becoming increasingly the norm for many, curating the music, TV and media that’s preferred at a time that suits consumers’ lifestyle. Netflix revenues have increased 36% year-over-year and Apple’s purchase of Shazam for $400m shows the market is continuing to evolve.

These brands are the new media giants, beating down the once dominant studios who are now consolidating to survive. But without hardware and devices, none of this is possible. I’m ensconced in this world and most of the consumers we speak to have very little understanding of what hardware to purchase and want help and advice.

This is where retailers can win, but they are not making the most of their assets – the team on the ground. These people are the face of a retail brand, interacting with the customer, the first port of call, the golden ticket to success, the ones that can transform your business but only if appropriately trained – and therein lies the problem.

Make the most of being face-to-face

That first face to face interaction is critical; sales staff should be asking key questions of consumers to discover why they are in the store and their needs, budget and motivations.

Are they looking to buy new, upgrade a device or has something broken down and needs replacing? What do they currently have? What specific features do they require? Where will it be used? How often? Is it a primary or secondary device? What is their preferred price range? A customer wants reassurance that the product will meet their needs and solve their ‘problem’.

It is important to ensure your staff can demonstrate the product, are trained on core ranges and brands so that they can explain the benefits to shoppers and don’t make the mistake of ignoring what the shopper has told them so that the features link naturally to the customer’s lifestyle or specific needs. This could make all the difference to their decision to purchase, helping to close the sale.

Shoppers need to know how the product will solve their unique ‘problem’ so that they walk away satisfied and hopefully come back for more. Online will never be able to provide this level of service so retailers need to take control of their destiny and provide consumers with an experience that was worth the trip.

Click here to read the article on The Drum

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