Tag Archives: Design

Brands Should Focus on Delivering a ‘Human’ Experience in the Brave New World

CXM Graphic

The uncertainty surrounding the fallout from lockdown and consumers’ changed behaviour makes the task of forecasting the future a difficult one for brands. While commentators obsess about the performance of channels and the extent to which ecommerce is replacing bricks and mortar, we are in danger of missing the key factor. Namely the customer.

As the global population responds to the coronavirus pandemic, key trends are emerging, reshaping the consumers priorities and spending outlook in the UK. The real dividing line is between those who respond and offer a great customer experience with those who don’t.

A changed context: New patterns of behaviour established

Every aspect of our life has been impacted. This ranges from the focus on the preservation of health & wellbeing to the renewed focus on the connection with family and friends to cope with the impact on personal safety and security.

Meanwhile, new behaviour patterns for work & play have emerged. We are staying at home to reduce travel and human interaction. This is, in turn, is changing spending habits as consumers adapt and fill their time in new ways.

Brands have had to find a new raison d’etre and are discovering new ways to communicate that emphasise empathy for employees and customers as they go into overdrive to overcome the downturn.

eCommerce can’t offer a true brand experience

While we have remained at home ecommerce has thrived and will be of growing importance. However, the evidence shows online sales will not completely replace lost revenue from traditional retail which needs to be examined.

Online retail sales share increased to 30.8 percent in May and June, however it is forecasted to decrease by 9 percent as stores open. The fact remains customer experience in considered purchases remain important as online can’t offer a true brand experience. Customers still long for the human interaction and advice that comes as part of the bricks and mortar shopping experience.

This was born out by a study we carried out last year that indicated 59 percent of people would always rather speak to a person than an automated system to find out more information about a product. Meanwhile, 73 percent preferred dealing with a human when trying to get a refund.

Innovation tackling safety concerns

So what lessons can retailers and brands take? The circle needs to be squared of people wanting an in-store experience when they are less likely to go to a shop. They also need to have their safety concerns considered when they do venture out.

Interactions can be managed and ideally, some element of browsing can already have been delivered.

Bringing the shop floor to the digital realm

For those more nervous about venturing out, innovative technology can deliver the desired customer experience. For example, Ikea has acquired AR startup Geomagical Labs, driving shoppers to purchase more big-ticket items without needing to visit a store. Geomagical Labs’ key product allows users to scan a room using a smartphone, render that into a panoramic 3D picture, remove all the furniture currently in it and then change the layout of items around the room by adding new items to scale.

This type of innovation and AR more generally will create more engaging digital experiences to help customers accurately visualise their home with new furniture. The same could apply to a whole range of product categories. Smart brands and retailers will be able to gain an advantage through differentiation of this kind.

It’s good to talk

While this may replicate the ‘show’ part of the in-store experience, a gap remains for the ‘tell’ part led by an expert. Retailers need to consider new ways of delivering human interaction, often required with higher ticket items. For example, instore advice can be replaced by training staff in call centres which could replicate the expert advisor instore. The human advice so desired by customers can be given but at a safe distance. This could range from product advice to refunds.

The focus should be a seamless experience delivered across all touchpoints, instead of obsessing about the false divide between online and offline. Retailers and brands need to put the customer’s needs front and centre and understand the need for a human touch. This is the best way of preparing for an uncertain future.

To read the full article please visit CXM.

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Five behavioural trends to take note of as the high street re-opens

The Drum Five Behaviour Trends

The latest signs of economic recovery look promising. So promising that Andy Haldane, The Bank of England economist, believes that the UK economy is growing at 1% a week. The V-shaped recession thought to be unlikely just a month ago now seems to be very much on the cards again.

Retail has been a big motor for this mini-recovery. People have been returning to the high street in large numbers with UK retail sales near pre-lockdown levels in June. According to the ONS, the amount of goods sold last month increased by 13.9% in June compared to May. The trend has continued in July as the reopening of shops supports pent-up demand punctuated with the roll out of marketing activity and campaigns to support retail in its reawakening mode.

The worry remains that the recovery may stall due to consumer confidence dipping. Consumers need to also have their safety concerns addressed. A real understanding of new behaviour is critical to maintaining momentum. So what are the key behavioural trends that retailers and brands should take notice of?

Safety is now the top priority

The starting point for bricks and mortar retailing pre-coronavirus may have been expert salespeople, attractive window displays, in-store offers and branding. Today the starting point is safety. Many shoppers still do not want to venture into public spaces without a purpose. In fact more than half of consumers, who would have shopped instore pre-coronavirus, now believe the risk to be high. This poses a serious challenge for many retailers seeking to draw shoppers back to stores. The focus has to be on reassuring these customers and clearly demonstrating your credentials across all your communications touchpoints.

Late adopters have finally embraced ecommerce

With new fears for safety, evidence shows some consumers intend to permanently change their shopping behaviour. This includes purchasing more online due to the continuing risks of infection. Many late adopters are the new converts to online. They have been slow to adopt online banking and shopping but they have done it now. This has not been driven by choice but due to fear about offline shopping. In fact, shoppers are now four times more likely to shift to online in the long term, particularly if they have health concerns. Local lockdowns like that in Leicester will only serve to reinforce the wariness.

In-store consumers are more likely to convert

The good news is that those who like to shop in person will continue to do so to have a decent customer experience. While online retail sales increased to 30.8% in May they are forecast to have decreased by 9% as stores open. In other words, while online is growing it still can’t fully replace the bricks and mortar experience. In response many brands and retailers have adopted an omnichannel proposition, rather than choosing one over the other. The resilience of instore is more evident in considered purchases and in the CE category where we are seeing consumers shopping with purpose. They are travelling and entering retail with a clear determination to purchase. As a result we are seeing a conversion rates of over 40% of product demonstrations leading to a sale. Naturally, this is determined by the experience and engagement they receive in-store. Therefore, a bad retail environment or salesperson pre lockdown isn’t going to change that post lockdown.

The home will remain our new centre of existence

In response to the lockdown, the reality of working from home has meant a likely shift in the workplace dynamic for many on temporary or permanent basis. Therefore, many technology brands in the market have shifted focus to home productivity and accessories. Retail must take learnings from this to support the initiatives and messaging put out by brands. This will ensure they are able to engage consumers looking for technology to support their change in working habits and in turn grow with the trend. As we spend more time also that clear winners throughout and ongoing are food retailers and also home stores with many opting to tackle home improvement projects whilst in lockdown and on furlough.

The rise in demand for appointments

As we are moving from a browsing culture to a purpose driven one, we are going to see the rise of the appointment booking. This will certainly be the case in the considered purchase space. It seems those who commit to the appointment do so with a clear intention to purchase within the set appointment duration. This trend seems to be speeding up the customer journey and increasing much needed sales.

To succeed in this new environment retailers need to be creative, follow the trends and create a customer experience worthy of a sale.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Let Me Engage You

LMEY

Our experience of working with tech and CE brands in retailers such as Currys and John Lewis has taught us that engagement with RSAs doesn’t have to complete once our brand ambassador has left the store.

At the beginning of the year we invested in developing our own digital Learning Management System (LMS) and engagement platform to extend the support Gekko provides for brands beyond the physical store. With the subsequent lockdown and challenges of getting back in-store, we’re glad we made that decision and are now pleased to be able to offer this innovative service to brands.

Let Me Engage You or LMEY is aimed at third party retail sales teams, whether based on the shop floor, in contact centres or online sales teams. As a fully brandable platform, LMEY can supplement the face to face engagement and training provided by field teams as well as extending reach to retailers, stores and regions not covered by such teams – a ‘digital first’ approach.

Speak to us and let us show you how we can make LMEY work for you an inexpensive and effective tool.

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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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Smaller suppliers need the support of big business like never before

Fresh Blog

Small British businesses are facing an existential crisis like never before on the back of COVID 19. Recessions bite slowly and in those circumstances small businesses can see and plan for every eventuality across sales, cashflow, headcount etc, but this virus has hit us like a bolt out of the blue and a lot of small businesses have seen revenue ravaged literally overnight and that’s both consumer and b2b.

So now more than ever big and small business need to work together.  This is no longer about David and Goliath, but the fabric of the business ecosystem that keeps this country afloat and people able to feed their families.  Often small businesses find themselves in situations where they are scared to ask for help or argue with big business in case they lose a contract – but this isn’t the time for self-deprecation, it’s fight for what’s right.

Big brands often have more support and cash to deal with such challenges yet many are pulling deals, campaigns and agreed contracts at a stroke.  And having been in this situation myself here’s my advice when faced with big brands not playing fair.

Practice what you preach:

If you own your own business, you are in charge of your own destiny and the people that work for you.  Rather than shareholders telling you what to do, in these unprecedented times, you do what’s right.  Be proud of the strategies you are implementing and articulate clearly to big business – especially if you’re currently operating not for profit so you can keep your team employed.

Scalability:

If big businesses want to stop contracts overnight, push them with alternative solutions like scaling down spend slowly rather than switching it off immediately, paying a proportion of fees for their next project.

Don’t believe the Hype:

Diageo has this week announced a $1million pot to help its on-trade customers through these difficult times, so it is possible for big business to put people before profit. Don’t be fobbed off, keep working with them on a solution that works for them and you.  They also have a moral duty and it’s incumbent on them to do their bit to support you.

Unscrupulous 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 that portray in their marketing are the antithesis of the brand values they trade on.

To read the full article please visit Fresh Business Thinking.

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Are Millenials easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online?

Bitesize blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%.  And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers.  In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds.  And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko, says: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact. The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there are less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit IPM Bitesize.

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Do millennials ignore the environmental impact of online shopping?

Bdaily blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%. And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers. In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds. And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit BDaily.

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2020 will be a smarter year for retail

PCR Blog

We know that smart home technology has revolutionised the way we live at home and according to PWC’s recent white paper, Connected Home 2.0, £10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in the UK in 2019. With the increased availability and adoption of 5G in the UK, I predict that the options on offer will only get smarter and extend their reach to every room in the household.

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 around your home, count up the numerous devices that are connected and smart. It’s only going to get more prevalent in our lives and the places we reside and work in.

Barring any changes as a result of the General Election, the government were supportive of a £530 million proposal from the UK’s mobile network operators for a Shared Rural Network with the potential for it to be matched by a £500 million investment from the government. This would be a world-first deal with all the UK carriers – EE, O2, Three, Vodafone – investing in a network of new and existing phone masts they would all share.

For consumers it means they will be able to rely on their own provider’s network to use their mobile phones wherever they are in the UK. More importantly it will improve connectivity in areas with poor or no broadband. The upcoming 5G rollout is one reason why experts predict that more than 36 billion devices globally will be connected to the internet by the end of 2020, all of them smart.

Away from mobile phones, the connected home covers pretty much every category from AV, including smart speakers to thermostats, lightbulbs, your washing machine, fridge, oven and kettle. You name it and it’s probably smart and will integrate into your life with the tap of a device or command of your voice. That’s why Google has created the Google Assistant Connect programme, which for manufacturers means that they can create custom devices that serve specific functions and are integrated with Google Assistant making more assistant enabled devices available within all categories.

With this mass adoption across multiple CE categories it’s anticipated that the user experience will undergo a significant shift in how users utilise and interact with smart technology and AI.

This would mean a more ‘Multi Experience’ model which changes the manner, usage and approach with our smart devices to shift both perception and interaction to a multisensory experience. For instance, adapting the lighting to a mood that’s personal to you and not generic, or managing your life more personally by telling you how your commute to work will be and what to wear based on the weather forecast before you’ve even thought about it, just by looking at your diary, which of course you’ve integrated or shared voluntarily with your AI device.

All this would happen more seamlessly, without the need to constantly repeat a ‘wake word’ such as ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Alexa’ and instead using the wake word once to continue the instructions with your AI device not only making the usage of AI more beneficial when multitasking but also more of a user centric experience.

And all these devices will need to be connected, and if not by 5G it will be through the development of WiFi 6, which drastically improve wireless communication protocols, increasing download speeds by three times the current WiFi 5 we use today and enabling even more connected devices, which will be more adept at natural language.

The upshot is that we will inevitably utilise smart devices with built in AI to a much greater extent, such as for ordering shopping, which is incidentally predicted to jump globally by 2020 – a blow for traditional retail, especially when you consider that it’s estimated a staggering 85% of purchasing suggestions made by Amazon are effective. It’s no wonder why retailers are torn on supporting Amazon or not. For example, in November, Nike withdrew all its products from sale on the Amazon platform.

It’s true to say that technology in 2020 will give with one hand and take from another, all for the sake of progress and convenience, but for consumers, it’s about choice. The choice to automate much of what we may consider tedious or periphery. The choice to share your data with any amount of organisations, known and unknown (you may wish to read those T&Cs you freely agree to. I know you won’t, nobody does).

There is also the choice for retailers to take on the challenge of selling smart technology effectively in an engaging manner that enables a positive experience for the consumer. More importantly for offline retail to rise to the challenge faced by online retailers and offer more – starting with a better customer journey.

Tor ead the full article please visit PCR.

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Live the Experience and Feel the Brand

BrandingMag Blog

Henry Matisse once said “creativity takes courage” and we’ve certainly seen a lot of creative bravery from brands that now have an incredible marketing canvas on which to paint. It’s a great time to be a marketer, leveraging opportunity and enabling people to immerse and engage in what a brand has to offer. And this has seen some incredible business transformations, with brands rising out of the ashes to new-found fame whilst others find themselves, sadly, unable to capitalize.

Let’s take Gucci, for example, and think about where it would be without social media. Partnerships with the upper echelon of society and celebrities were no longer cutting it – Gucci is a beautiful, classic, heritage brand that had lost its relevance. But wait a few years, bring in the influencers, and Gucci is massively cool again. If Billie Eilish wears it, then who am I to judge?! And, of course, this is all backed up by expensive, gorgeous, and glamorous ATL activations.

However, one thing that these currently successful brands all appear to have invested in is the ‘brand experience store’ — and bringing marketing to life on the shop floor. If you’re going to buy a Gucci handbag that you see on Instagram, Facebook or TV, you’re certainly going to want to touch and feel it before you buy it. For some people, it may be like buying a high-street bag but for others this purchase will be a naughty bit of extravagance or a once-in-a-blue-moon treat.

Creative brand artistry needs to live in the ‘real world’ for consumers and to maintain longevity for a brand. Consumers need to be able to feel, see, touch, and engage with a brand and its products to truly buy into it, not just for one purchase. So, with brick and mortar retail struggling globally, it’s important that we hero its role for brands, consumers, the community, and society in general. In the UK, 78% of purchases are still made in physical retail — a figure that astonishes most people.

Retailers may have axed 85,000 UK jobs in the last year, according to the British Retail Consortium, and yes, it’s tragic, but a lot of the blame lies with those brands that didn’t have the agility to reimagine their business models quick enough, with too many stores and not enough experience. But juxtaposed against this — and interestingly alongside fashion and beauty brands which you’d expect — it’s the ‘technology super brands’ doing brand experience really well. The exact brands you think would shy away from a traditional retail presence are sharing their creative artistry and putting the customer experience at the core of their strategy.

Brands like Samsung, Microsoft, and Apple have invested heavily in their experience stores in prime retail sites. These stores are cool and innovative — mixing retail and leisure — showcasing full product suites, curating ambiance with luxury lounges, and most importantly ‘talent’. Those people who work on the shop floor, greet your customers, represent your brand and product portfolio every day and who drive sale through your product by creating interactions that are rewarding for everyone.

It was recently reported in The Times that Amazon, once deemed as fully responsible for the demise of the high street, is discreetly building a team of British property experts amid speculation that it will expand its physical presence. So, if the most successful online business, whose Amazon Go and Whole Foods brands are examples of physical retail, believes in bricks and mortar as part of their commercial strategy, then surely everyone else must?

It becomes too easy to believe the self-fulfilling prophecy that online shopping is perfect, and the high street is a busted flush. So, the moral of this story? Brands can spend as much money as they like creating extraordinary marketing artistry, but at some point this has to live in the real world, with real brand advocates in-store, selling your products, making the tills ring, and giving the customer an experience worth coming back for and spreading the word. People are never going to stop shopping on the high street; It’s just the way and where they are doing it that has changed. Retail, as an industry, is vital to the global economy, so as we enter a new era of brick and mortar retailing, my advice to brands is: Always let consumers ‘live’ the experience and feel your brand.

To read the full article please visit Branding Mag.

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It’s not just retail; it’s M&S retail

The Drum MS Blog

The UK is historically a nation of shoppers, which more often than not puts it in the top five markets for many global brands. Right now, however the economy is tough, and retail is hurting.

With so many retail brand names disappearing from the high street, reducing choice and damaging local communities or shopping districts, the retailers that remain are struggling to survive.

Marks and Spencer, founded in 1884, is a brand unique to the UK, with no global footprint. It serves a niche market of 63 million residents, many of whom have lived with it their entire life. But it’s been well documented that the chain has struggled to connect with a younger audience, and by trying to do so has started to lose its appeal to its core audience.

By trying to be something for everyone, it’s starting to mean nothing to anyone.

One of the main issues with M&S is the fact that it’s a brand with no subsidiaries, and it doesn’t sell any third party products across fashion, homeware, and furniture, with only a few exceptions in the cosmetic and food categories. That makes it very different to some of the brands it competes with, like H&M Group – who have a broad global audience to speak to across 62 counties. Its many brands include H&M, H&M Home, Arket, COS, Weekend, Cheap Monday, Monki, and Other Stories. With approximately 4,500 doors and eight clearly defined brands, H&M Group meets the needs of so many generations and demographics in a way that M&S can’t.

A public breakup

With falling sales and decline across all categories except food which registered like-for-like sales uplift 0.9% with its latest half year results, is there any chance for M&S to refresh its brand to appeal to the many in a progressive nation like the UK?

I don’t think so: it’s almost like an “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of breakup.

The change has already begun. 47 stores have disappeared and the retailer is still looking to close 100 stores by 2022, but with 1,035 UK stores, that still leaves a lot of square footage. The current UK turnover figures of £9.4bn demonstrate that the brand isn’t doing too badly against others who are teetering on the brink of collapse, but it’s losing its focus by desperately chasing growth which isn’t there and, in the process, stifling creativity.

So forget the gimmicks like the M&S Little Shop (those collectable mini grocery items made from non-biodegradable material). This was a bit of a PR disaster, especially when you consider that for many the ethics of fast retail are a major concern. Shoppers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact certain industries make with fashion, for example, accounting for around 10% of total carbon emissions and a significant percentage of total water consumption.

M&S do have their Plan A sustainability programme, but does it do enough to communicate it? I don’t believe so and think M&S could be speaking to so many who are keen to see a retailer change and pioneer green retail for all.

Fixing the brand

Aside from missing a trick on environmental initiatives, it also lags behind other retailers on its feelgood factor. Its in-store experience is lacking, and its approach to retail will never compliment a great advertising campaign.

But one of the simplest forms of enhanced experience starts with staff; M&S have the benefit of loyal and customer centric staff so why not make them your ambassadors to create that experience? Perhaps ditch the uniform and in the process possibly save yourself a lot of money. Dress your staff in your clothes and update it seasonally. The outlay would be less, and your team immediately become the advocates of your brand.

Collaborate with a brand and start a conversation with someone new. Find the yin to your yang and be realistic – no one really wants to wear M&S trainers! Find a complementary brand for a category or create a collection that people really want to chase and will desire.

The current model is clearly not working – but hold on, it’s still making a handsome turnover, employing 81,000 staff and achieving a profit, so what’s the problem? Are the reports self-fulfilling in that they only serve to change perceptions in the consumers mind?

Regardless, the growth for brands like M&S is limited unless they can create a seismic shift in appeal to a younger or more affluent audience which starts with the experience a consumer feels from the brand.

 

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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