Tag Archives: Field Marketing

Carefully consider the customer in this new age of retail

As consumers were forced online, bringing back a sensory experience through a carefully considered customer journey, is where independent retail is amongst the best says Daniel Todaro from Gekko.

It’s been a tough few months for all retailers but we’re back and now more than ever the customer experience is the tool many retailers must be reaching for to recapture shoppers and remind them what they have missed.

Based on findings from the CBI, retail sales have risen above seasonal norms for the first time this year. The reopening of non-essential stores in England and Wales brought relief to the sector. April’s retail sales volumes were viewed as “good” for not only the first time this year but also since June 2018, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey.

After reopening on the 12th April, the early signs suggest that shoppers were particularly eager to visit fashion retailers, and on the day, spending on clothes was double the typical pre-pandemic level. Furthermore, the figures are stronger than when stores reopened after the first lockdown in 2020. The number of people shopping online in the past month fell for the second time in a row, and while it is still strong, the rate is half what it was at the height of the pandemic. The data points to a growing sense that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and people are becoming more comfortable with venturing out to stores.

Retail will undoubtedly regain its mojo over the coming months and if as hoped we are out of complete restrictions this summer, it should rebound and take full opportunity as the burden of these rules no longer apply. It’s going to be different and it will no doubt continue to evolve but retail as one of the most dynamic industries, has always done this. It evolves to meet the expectations of generations, trends and attitudes. Brands and retailers must therefore work to create more experiences spread across a wider space to offer consumers an immersive experience that makes a customer buy from your store and continues to do so, wanting to visit again based on the experience received.

Since reopening we have already seen a 12% shift from online to the high street in the first two weeks. Whilst the growth will have added to the overall online retail space, consumers are increasingly bored of online shopping just as they are Zoom calls. For the entire nation, lockdowns forced us to shop online whether we liked to or not. If we wanted that thing for that purpose, customers had to go online and research, buy, deliver or collect and in many cases return it because it wasn’t right. Whilst this may have felt convenient for some, this meant that for many the sensory experience was immediately banished to a 2D experience and brown boxes dumped on our doorstep.

Human nature is to be stimulated through a sensory experience and even for those with no real passion for shopping, I suspect they have missed some of the pleasures that physical retail offers. In specific categories, this is enhanced more than others such as considered purchases in the MDA and CE categories. Sustainability is another factor many will be considering now that they have a choice. Our increased carbon footprint created by ordering items that have travelled several hundred miles will once again prick the consciousness of all of us as we look to increase our sustainability initiatives, not increase them with unnecessary additional miles and packaging.

We are gradually coming out of lockdown and consumers continue to be excited about it. Indeed over 85% of consumers from our latest retail survey results claimed that they have already taken advantage of physical shops being open to make purchases. They are emerging with a determined mind-set, using their newfound online skills to narrow down their options before heading to the store to browse and make the final purchase.

The retail environment is changing and has been particularly fluid over the past year. This data is critical to understanding the new trends that have emerged and forming (or re-forming) brand strategies. Insight from Kantar, online shopping fell in April for what was the second time in a row, and Springboard footfall data showed an increase of 88% week on week for the period that non-essential retail reopened after the 12th. All of this points to the fact that there are more shoppers out there than there have been for 14 months, so there is a chance here to connect with them while confidence is high and a (hopefully) high-spirited summer begins.

The online share of retail sales is decreasing, although the benchmark remains above the pre-pandemic figure, settling at about 36% in April vs 23% in 2020. This of course indicates the acceleration of a trend that has been growing for a while, but it does mostly remain product specific, and nothing will ever really replace the experiences that in store shopping can offer. The store should now become more of an experience hub as well as a purchase point. In-store marketing continues to have the power to not only increase actual sales, but also other key factors such as brand loyalty and even helping to drive social media interactions.

When it comes to consumer electronics and large appliances in particular, many consumers will always prefer to touch a product and hear about its benefits first hand rather than reading a specification sheet online. Hearing their input, from questions to reasons for purchase, can then be fed back directly to a brand, enabling them to react and stay ahead of the competition.

In this new age of retail, the smartest businesses will be the ones that can leverage the opportunity to reach consumers at every level relevant to them, and that is where effective brand experience and a carefully curated customer journey can step in to help exceed your customers’ expectations.

To read the full article please visit ERT Magazine.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

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A hybrid approach: Five retail innovations the pandemic has speeded up

Every business has been forced to change in the past year, it doesn’t matter the industry you are in. Retail is no different, but unlike others, it has always been a dynamic industry at the forefront of responding to consumer trends and the manner in which people want to consume things. Retailers have always understood they are at the vanguard of that change. This past year has truly focused the mind on this and the need for innovation like never before.

It’s not just about entirely new initiatives. Many trends that were already taking place have had their roll out compressed from years to months. Here are five innovations that the pandemic has speeded up that can offer a pathway to sustained growth to those who take advantage.

1. Click and collect

There is renewed and growing enthusiasm for click and collect. In part that’s linked to the general increase in online shopping but it’s also because of the convenience and importantly the hygienic, social distancing aspects. A pandemic trend that is set to stay, 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. Click and collect certainly appeals to more sustainability-focused customers. These shoppers want 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. Retailers should think about how to maximise the opportunity to boost profitability. An obvious example being upselling products in a collection environment.

2. Using Augmented Reality to assist big ticket purchases

As we can see from the figures post-lockdown, physical retail has an enduring appeal with huge pent up demand being realised. However with more consumers having been forced to buy higher ticket items online, smart brands are looking at new technology to fuse the offline and online world and assist sales. Ikea is a brand that has always focused on innovation and disrupting the traditional retail experience. They made a smart play last year, acquiring AR imaging startup Geomagical Labs. The intention was to drive shoppers to purchase more big-ticket items without always needing to visit a store. Its technology allows a user to quickly scan a room using any smartphone, render that into a panoramic 3D picture in a few minutes, remove all the furniture in it and then add in new items to scale, helping shoppers picture products ‘in-situ’. This will be implemented by Ikea into its website and apps to let people start to create accurate visualisations of their spaces, and how they would look with Ikea pieces in them. While the technology remains nascent, other retailers should definitely take note.

3. Joining up the omni-channel experience

Ecommerce has been a big winner from this past year with millions more now comfortable with shopping online. However the experience remains disappointing for many. A recent survey by Ayden found that more than two thirds (68%) of Brits say they will now not shop with organisations if they had a bad experience either online or in store (an increase of 18% since June 2020). Meanwhile, 53% believe retailers need to do more to link their physical and online stores. Invariably the offline and online experience is not joined up and inconsistent. Too often the focus online is based on the ‘what’, product specs, price etc without thinking about the ‘why’ a consumer wants a product. Smart retailers and brands know it shouldn’t be the ‘channel’ that is the focus but the customer experience, which is then realised across all its touchpoints. Starting with an audit across all channels, brands need to ensure they are visible and joined up. The evidence shows brands who are joined up have succeeded over the past year.

4. Training the experts at scale

A key element of the formula for success instore is a shopper’s engagement with retail sales advisors. Are they proactive, helpful, skilful, knowledgeable, and capable of providing a personalised experience? This is something the online experience can’t replicate and physical retailers need to capitalise upon. Much is down to individuals, their training and management the retailer provides, but when it comes to talking about a brand and its products it is vital they are informed, motivated and most importantly advocates. This is often down to brand led initiatives and while in the past these experiences were provided in person, the pandemic has forced new innovative ways through virtual training being offered with face to face communication not being possible. For example Gekko has developed a new digital learning and engagement platform for brands to talk directly with Retail Sales Advisors, allowing them to choose when and how they learn, with gamification and incentives driving uptake. It’s meant we have been able to train many more staff members and have far more impact. While we will still be visiting face to face – a hybrid model will be our new way of doing business. A bit like peoples’ changed working arrangement, it’s taken a major event to force through a sensible and more efficient way of doing business.

5. The advisor’s new domain – the video call as well as the shopfloor

While digital methods are proving successful to train more instore experts at scale, the digital world can also be utilised to provide direct expert assistance to those making a considered purchase. Curry’s are one brand who tried a new approach during the pandemic with the ShopLive service offering expert advice to assist the sales process. A popup appears asking if you need buying advice, but rather than the experience being a frustrating one with a generic chatbot, shoppers can then start a one way video call with one of their experts. ShopLive now has over 800 ‘tech-perts’, aiding customers through their essential tech purchases. Each new expert goes through two days of specialist training to ensure they can help customers with every tech query. While a face to face conversation with a live product demo and test will always be the best way of answering any customers’ needs, this certainly can aid the sales process for those who would still rather not venture out or can’t for any reason.

Despite the atypical nature of the past year, we have seen many retailers react to the adversity with typical dynamism. The changes and digital transformation that has taken place will in the long run only be a good thing for the industry. A lot of the confident retailers have really begun to find their voice and discover a new way to navigate these uncertain, but exciting waters.

To read the full article please visit Bdaily.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

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Four strategies for mobile brands looking to build market share in 2021

Revised forecasts from IDC predict smartphone sales will have declined by 12% overall in 2020. Against this backdrop, the traditional approach to growing market share for mobile brands is as dated as music festivals, theatre trips or weddings. Instead, brands have needed to adapt innovative new strategies to weather the turbulence, respond to changing consumer needs and come out stronger. A 2019 playbook simply won’t cut it in a continuing world of social distancing and faded touchpoints. Here are four strategies for mobile brands looking to expand market share in 2021.

Focus on establishing credibility

It goes without saying, but it has been a very tough year for challenger brands, with consumers gravitating towards brands they already know. Market leader Apple has expanded market share in the UK from 49% in October 2019 to 53% in October 2020. In this new environment, it has been very difficult for new entrants to promote themselves and establish themselves in consumers’ lives, especially with the reduction in opportunities to physically see and touch a new product. Consumers will want to invest their hard-earned cash and goodwill into credible brands that they know and are likely to stay. Key to this is a brand that has a great portfolio, strong supporting ecosystem, great customer service and the marketing vision and ability to build a credible trustworthy brand. For those wanting to make inroads, they will need a best in class distribution strategy and the ability to really differentiate and personify a brand.

Build in-store knowledge and advocacy

A vital component for any brand intent on gaining market share is how the brand builds knowledge and advocacy among those tasked with selling the devices. This includes retail sales advisors and contact centre sales teams. When premium devices are pushing £1,000+, the customer also wants to have a touch and play, especially when moving into a new brand. While we are spending more of our lives on digital channels and less in shops, the fact remains that when people are shopping they are doing so with ‘purpose’. In other words, they are intent on buying something. A proof point for this is that we have seen conversion rates of over 40% of product demonstrations leading to a sale. Therefore having the right skilled staff in-store to make the sale on more infrequent trips is critical. Consumers also trust brands they can see in stores, as that lets them know that, as a brand, you are committed to the marketplace.

Being quick to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances

In today’s world, it is hard enough to plan two weeks ahead let alone six months. Therefore quick thinking and flexibility are critical. Brands have needed to adapt quickly to sudden government decisions, such as the two national lockdowns and various local restrictions we have seen. Many of the brands I work with have transitioned their activities back into distance sales with as little as five days’ notice. An omnichannel strategy has been needed with non-physical channels critical in 2020. Despite non-essential retail being closed, effective brand engagement continues through innovative e-learning and e-commerce. Many consumers upgrading or shopping for new devices won’t have the option of heading to the high street so have gone down the online or contact centre route. Brands that have been able to switch to providing virtual training and support to these channels have seen positive results.

Premiumisation is a good long-term strategy

A recent report by Counterpoint indicates that the wholesale average selling price (ASP) of the global smartphone market increased by 10% in 2020 despite a decline in shipments and the decline in premium products was less steep than the overall average. The reason being, there has been less economic impact on premium smartphone users. Huawei is a good example of a brand that established itself in the premium category in a relatively short space of time. To succeed in this marketplace, there needs to be a real focus and clarity on what your brand stands for and where you want it to go. A halo effect can drive the overall success for a brand. Driving customer buy-in at the mid- and low-level remains important, but solely targeting the lower- and mid-tiers will cause problems in the future. This is because you will need to buy your way into the premium market. The unintended consequence is that a brand can find itself in a low tier hole that is extremely hard to get out of.

While the market remains challenging, the brands that succeed are the ones able to adapt and respond to the changing needs of consumers. This customer-centricity is what has underpinned the success of innovative mobile companies over the past decade and will be the foundation for success whatever the next year holds.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Get back to where you once belonged – IFA 2020 Review

IFA 2020 is a much smaller, intimate socially distanced affair in Berlin. The event organisers have done a superb job at keeping the CE industries key event open all be it, not to the general public.

I am here as a guest to sit through keynotes from the industries great and good however more exciting is the next gen events running alongside these.

The Corona effect has impacted the industry at a global level and as we come out of having spent quite possibly the longest continued time than normal in our own homes, consumer’s desire for new technology to enhance their space has grown. The industry knows this and my business has seen this since retail reopened with an average conversion to sale of over +60% and ABV increase by +10%.

Drivers to purchase range from distress to replacement but also upgrade, desiring the latest in smart CE to complement the extra time we are now spending at home but also just in case we are forced to spend another lengthy lockdown in our cribs.  

One of the long-term effects of lockdown has been that people are now spending more time at home, by choice, centred around the kitchen meaning that more of what we consume needs be made or prepared using technology. This extends to how we wash not only those pots, pans, crockery etc. but also how we clean our clothes and our homes, in addition to working from home and socialising. Brands within the category have jumped to call of more innovation, more integration, and more space. The design of the home is evolving faster due to Coronavirus making consumers keen to enhance their quality of life at home through smart technology whilst not compromising on aesthetics.

A brand that seems to have designed to meet this challenge post lockdown is BSH, which has added not only smart technology to its range but also a third shelf in its dishwashing range. It’s also increased the size of its freezers with an extra 26cm of cubic space. Its neat invention, Connected Cookit, is a multifunction food processor with cooking functions that cooks up to 200 degrees. It’s a slow cooker, but not as you know it – it makes it, cooks it and connects to your voice assistants and your smart devices so you can control it remotely. This connectivity extends to BSH ovens, dishwashers etc. from your Fitbit whilst you venture out for a run meaning that you can still be in the kitchen, when you’re not.

Innovations include changing hues of ambient lights on hoods, dishwashers etc. to match your mood or interior and also programming your coffee machine to make the perfect cup of coffee just as you, your family and your guests like it, bringing the barista out in you.

Investment in R&D are the key shout outs this year across all brands showcasing at IFA this year. Amongst the largest was $100bn from Huawei’s who are committing to developing technologies encapsulated in an initiative called ‘1+8+N seamless connected living’ on which Huawei is in the first chapter and that enable a connected future for all. In reaction to the US sanctions imposed on Huawei and those who worked with the brand, Huawei have risen to the challenge admirably engaging directly with almost 460m monthly active users, 33m in the EU alone. The App Gallery is the third largest app store globally, increasing 76% YOY naturally due to the loss of Google services meaning Huawei users have limited choice but to do so. Petal search, the new search engine from Huawei, now has over 100m users with 81,000 apps integrated. Relevant apps are on the platform meaning that whatever the USA government tried to do to dampen Huawei has backfired and served to make the brand stronger in the market. 

The investment extends into retail, where others fear to tread, Huawei are leading the charge and opening eight flagship stores across major cities such as London, Paris, Milan which will be complemented by 42 experience zones that offer a user experience unrivalled so they claim. This initiative is close to my heart as the need to engage consumers in the considered purchase space is so important to achieve meaningful sales, market share and create advocates of your brand if not for life, certainly for the next five years.

Another Chinese brand making significant noise is Haier, which also owns Hoover, Candy and GE Appliances wants to be 100% connected throughout its portfolio of products. Currently they have 18 families of products that they are developing through app and voice connectivity, “democratic connectivity” according to the CEO Zhang Ruimin. With a three brand strategy of Candy delivering Value, Hoover as the core and Haier as premium. Candy, positioned in the market by its parent company as ‘affordable, smart, Italian’ claims to have 1.2 million paired products and 30% active users which in 2019 it recorded that 21% of Candy users were launching a washing cycle using its smart home facility, a multiple of 3 YOY and still growing.

Nova by Candy is a fully connected washing machine powered by your smartphone. The first of its type with one single button to control the MDA but also learning about your usage and making recommendations to enable consumers to wash smarter and ecologically.

Impressively it is claimed by Hoover that they sell globally a stick vacuum every minute. The new range will also be connected. H-Wash will scan your label via your smartphone and your connected Hoover H-Wash 500 will select the best program for your laundry. Now that means anyone can do the laundry.

H-Habitat air purifier, connected of course, will assess the quality of air in your home, the weather forecast, pollution stats, pollen count and adapt your purifier to react according to the need within your home. Gathering internal and external air data through the H-Scanner, which activates the robotic vacuum to clear dust and the air purifier to adapt the air quality in your home.

Positioning Haier as a premium brand and claimed to be the fastest growing premium brand (in this category) through creating innovations such as antibacterial laundry and five door cooling each with adjustable temperature zones. Did you know that Haier makes wine storage solutions? They are linking with the Vivino app to help you with how you should store any bottle of wine. By scanning the label, the app will automatically update the temperature of the storage to suit your choice of wine.

The trend at IFA 2020, it would seem, is that every brand is seeking to be the first choice for consumers to integrate with your smart home. It’s fair to say that the big news came predominantly from the MDA sector amongst others.

LG – “For us, this is a milestone of foundational significance because with this level of digital integration, we’re really beginning to build an evolving, connected and open ecosystem of smart products and services that can deliver so much more than the sum of its parts – going above and beyond device-level thinking to unlock a whole new world of potential at the system-level.”

Dr. IP Park, President & CTO, LG Electronics (Watch the summary of his speech.)

BSH – “We at BSH want to be the first company in our industry to neutralize the direct carbon dioxide emissions of all our locations worldwide.”

Matthias Ginthum, CMO BSH Hausgeräte (Watch the summary of his speech.)

TCL – “Our mission is to make life intelligent with innovative technology to make our customers’ lives easier and smarter.”

Frederic Langin, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, TCL Europe (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Haier – “Haier will introduce new solutions based on an ecosystems built from the Internet of Things for turning the group vision of Smart Home and Smart Living into reality.”

Yannick Fierling, CEO Haier (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Schneider electric – “The need to start to make homes not only smart but also sustainable and the urgency of the same has increased with the current crisis. (…) We are now linking the electric world and the digital world. This is Wiser.”

Manish Pant, CEO & Executive Vice President Home & Distribution Division Schneider electric (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Beurer – “Experience the power of the sea at home with maremed®. The patented technology creates a natural-identical seaside climate.”

Georg Walkenbach, Managing Director, Beurer GmbH (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Miele – “The Miele Group has coped quite well with this challenging year so far. In fact, at the midpoint of the year our sales were actually almost 2 per cent higher than those in the first half of 2019.”

Dr Reinhard Zinkann, Executive Director and Co-Proprietor of the Miele Group (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Hyundai – “You know we are making strategic investments in smaller fast-moving companies that will help Hyundai become more of a tech company rather than just a car company.” Michael Cole, President and CEO Hyundai Motor Europe 

HONOR – “Today, I am pleased to announce that we are bringing our all scenario smart life strategy to the next level. We will upgrade your productivity, creativity, connectivity and entertainment experiences, expand your smart life” and “From outdoor watches to all-rounder PCs, we are empowering young people to reinvent their smart life and expand the way they approach fitness, creativity, productivity and everyday entertainment”

George Zhao, President of HONOR Global (Watch the summary of his speech)

Now, with a handful of brand booths and three days of press conferences also IFA Business, Retail & Meeting Lounges, the highlight was the cross-industry innovations at SHIFT Mobility meets IFA NEXT. Here many ranging from start-up and established brands were showcasing new emerging technologies and there were in my humble opinion three worthy of note:

Heatle

When we boil water to make that cup of tea we boil more than we need. This device will boil whatever the amount, whatever the liquid. It is the easiest, fastest and most sustainable alternative to traditional ways of heating liquids benefiting our environment and does so free from limescale. It claims to save up to 60% energy per cup but you can’t have one just yet, as there’s a waitlist to own one.

Meater 

A wireless Bluetooth enabled meat thermometer that helps you never overcook that special cut of meat and cook it to perfection. It’s the first wireless smart meat thermometer that will estimate how long to cook your food to get perfect results which can be used on all types of cooking equipment to gage a temperature. As you would expect its wireless using a Bluetooth connection and app to permanently measure the internal and external temperature of the food. The app provides real time information on the cooking status of the meal, including resting time. Available in 3 versions: The Original MEATER and MEATER+ has a 50 metres Bluetooth range, ideal for the BBQ and for the Masterchefs amongst you. The MEATER block with 4 temperature probes boasts unlimited range and integrated OLED-display

Visseiro 

It is a ‘Smart Care Cushion’, which it claims allows reliable, continuous and contactless measurements of vital signs. The simple pillow effortlessly tracks elderly’s health and stores data in an app that can be checked regularly and sent to your doctor, if needed. Currently still in development but you could become a test user to aid its development.

It is these products that make IFA the destination event to experience innovation from established and start up brands. However this year, IFA as we know was sadly missed and whilst the event was skilfully orchestrated, I’m sure all will welcome the mass of brands in every category coming together as normal to enthralling and engaging media and consumers again next year at IFA2021 3rd – 7th September. Save the date.

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Smart Watches, Smart Choice

Daniel Todaro, Gekko’s managing director discusses the growing trend in smart watches, as we all look to monitor our health more closely and the wider acceptance these devices are gaining in the wake of COVID-19

Lockdown turned the attention of many to fitness and general wellbeing to make the most of the limited options available to exercise our bodies and minds. Therefore, what easier way to monitor this than through a Smartwatch, to give us that additional incentive or red flag to get up and be active within the constraints we all encountered. As a result, the market experienced a 20% surge in sales for Smartwatches during the H1 period that included lockdowns across much of the globe. The Wearables market is forecasted to grow in 2020 by 27%, with average selling prices dropping 4.5% but increasing to be a market worth over £18 billion.

It is fair to say that the popularity of smartwatches has been driven by advances in miniaturisation, through smaller and smarter sensors enabling ergonomic product design in devices. In fact, research and advisors, Gartner, are predicting that 10% of all wearables may be discreet and nearly invisible in the near future.

Beyond the hardware, is the trend in development of apps and services to complement wearables. Apple’s recent announcement of Fitness+, Amazon’s new Halo, and Fitbit’s Fitbit Premium, connect users with health and fitness content giving consumers guided workouts, coaching and diet advice, while incorporating data from their wearable device. For many this creates greater advocacy towards a brand’s ecosystem, making the software equal to the hardware when consumers make a choice on which wearable is right for them.

You will not have missed that Apple launched the 6th incarnation of its watch, which over its product lifecycle has contributed considerably to the smartwatch market. Indeed, Apple holds the largest share of a category that shipped a staggering 92.4 million units in 2019. Fast-forward to Q1 2020 and the increased popularity in the Apple Watch saw 4.5 million units shipped, holding a 26.8% share of the market. Whilst not to undermine this impressive lion share of the market that Apple holds, it’s important to note that there are other equally as good, if not better, wearable brands and devices available on the market. In total, all brands contributed to global sales across the category and in some instances shipping more than Apple when you include all Fitness wearables from Trackers, Body Sensors and Smart Wristbands.

The other significant market leaders in the smartwatch category are Fitbit, who shipped 2.5 million units in the q2 2020, as well as Samsung who held a 10.8% share in the first quarter of 2020. Other more sports focused brands, such as Garmin, extend the Smart watch category towards the pro athlete types that would never consider any mainstream or ‘lifestyle’ brand. Also, let’s not forget the many ‘challenger’ brands that are impacting on the market and chipping away at the category leaders share. These include the Chinese company Xiaomi, whose Mi Band fitness tracker has been witnessing great success creating a market share of 20.4% in Q2 2020. Put all these brands together and the category is forecasted to grow having already successfully shipped across all brands 33.7 million devices in Q2 2020.

The value of this market has developed 34% year-on-year as more consumers adopt smart devices for health and leisure reasons.

The integration of smartwatches into our lifestyles has become ‘normal’ to many across all generations who now couldn’t live without these devices. This growth in popularity and acceptance across all demographics and wider markets will see the category grow further and ship a forecasted 156 million units in 2021, an increase of 14.4%.

This increase will certainly see the smartwatch landscape potentially change with shifts in operating systems as Google’s planned acquisition of Fitbit enables it to bolster its health and fitness offerings. As you can imagine, an aggressive acquisition strategy is likely to be on the cards adding more OEM manufacturers to its list of Google Wear OS providers. The competition will undoubtedly get fierce with Samsung’s Tizen also looking to gain share with its own fitness-focused Galaxy watches. Therefore, the need to innovate and compete against challenger brands becomes even greater and adoption will be greater if the integration and compatibility of your smartwatch fits in seamlessly with your other devices.

Fitbit, who you could argue created the category, has recently launched the Sense product that responds to the growing desire from consumers to better understand their lifestyle and increase wellbeing. Features include Stress Management, Compatible ECG App, Skin Temperature Sensor and Sleep Tools for Better ZZZs. All bundled up in a competitively priced and design-led product that is compatible with all iOS and Android devices and can be customised to mix and match with colours and accessories to broaden, not only compatibility, but also its appeal.

Pre-empting this battle is perhaps the reason why Apple has launched the lower priced Watch SE that sits between its premium and entry-level legacy devices. This will enable the brand to benefit from the growth, to be stimulated through an aggressive land grab dominated by Google, Fitbit, Samsung and challenger brands such as Xiami and Huawei. It is widely recognised that the market for basic smartwatches and bands will benefit from the youth market whom these challenger brands offer a cost effective entry into the category and perhaps also those late adopters to the category.

With the gifting season upon us, against the backdrop of Covid-19 and people not being able or perhaps opting not to go to gyms, the options for smart health to increase its reach are obvious. Extending this to the older generation who perhaps value the peace of mind of understanding vital statistics without the need to book appointments and venture into surgeries may increase forecasted growth.

What we do know, it is the established users who remain an important sector, as they demand that their smartwatch does more and we are less coy about wearing these daily in place of a traditional timepiece. In fact, according to market research from Kantar, British consumers are not shy in admitting they use a fitness tracker, with 15% happy to claim publically to owning a smartwatch. Adopting them as a lifestyle choice to be used more widely across families and friends, thus increasing acceptance and contributing to the wearables success story.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Taking back control

We’ve talked for so long about the high street and in particular independent retailers being the beating heart of the community and how the internet, large retail parks and changes in consumer behaviour has rocked this foundation to the core. We’re at the point where independent retailers are becoming a rare breed and, as such, local high streets become less appealing.

Whilst none of us could have imagined the COVID-19 situation to happen, it’s been such an almighty step change in the way we live.

Our fundamental societal roles have changed – working, shopping, education – as well as our attitudes to the community roles we all took for granted; our NHS, bin men, local butchers, bakers, milk deliverers have all been elevated to heroes in our communities.

But will this 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?

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. Let’s face it, people have been thoroughly enjoying pubs, bars, restaurants and cinemas recently as they have missed doing this for quite 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 their front door.

Don’t just do the same

My first piece of advice. We’ll soon have a drastic change in seasons and there will be new product ranges ready and waiting to go. Remind people why they like physical shopping. The ability to see, feel and choose – think about layouts and colour, fun and opportunity for helpful conversation and engagement.

Westfield, the shopping centre chain, released its ‘How We Shop’ report discussing the biggest retail trends to date and what the future holds. The report said that 2025 is the tipping point year when more than half of retail square meterage will be dedicated to experiences rather than product.

A colossal 81 per cent of shoppers interviewed said they would be willing to pay more for experience, 75 per cent will spend more in stores that offer experiences as well as product, and 42 per cent want to see more creative experiences in store.

As an independent retailer, you may think that your store cannot compete with Westfield in terms of size, scale and budget, but recent consumer behaviour has shown that ‘local’ is just as important. So keep on fighting and entice consumers with products that appeal to their needs and desires to get out and shop and treat themselves. Make that contrast between the anonymity and soullessness that can be experienced by online shopping and the personal experience that local businesses can offer.

With 40 per cent of all online sales during the first three weeks in lockdown being ‘non-food’, the challenge is to win back those consumers who may have had no alternatives, particularly with distress purchases, to shop online. Take back control and don’t let go of your customer base.

Enhance the experience

The experience is the glue that holds this together. An experiential model can streamline logistics and free up cash flow, allowing your sales advisers time to spend helping customers.

Unlike the typical retail model that is focussed on immediate sales, the experiential model aims to drive traffic into the shop and extend the customer’s dwell time in the space. Even if it doesn’t result in immediate physical sales, it can still be a longer term win as customers who spend time browsing tend to buy more expensive items and come back time and again.

So think about how you could enhance the experience – whether it’s smaller or bigger ranging, specialisation, marketing, PR, advertising, training or extra services. And then how do you socialise it? Free coffee, a 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?

With an estimated £12.6 billion in revenue forecast to be lost from UK retail sales in 2020 and 34 per cent of people worried about the economic recovery, the impact of COVID-19 could be long-term. So, keep your head up and make a good case for every valuable consumer pound being spent. Appeal to a national new found sense of community and locality and aim to socialise the shopping experience.

To read the full article please visit ERT.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Burst from Pexels

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School’s in for autumn!

The back to school market was worth £1.7bn last year, according to GlobalData and it is a very lucrative time for brands that target children and parents in education. However, like with everything else in 2020, the lead up to this Back to School period has been extraordinary. We have witnessed a time of unprecedented turmoil for young people, from algorithms determining grades to having classrooms swapped for living rooms as the new seat of learning. With schools returning in September, anxious and tired parents will be preparing for every eventuality in ensuring their children don’t fall behind.

There has been a lot of hasty pivoting for brands depending on whether or not kids are physically back to school or not. Retailers and brands should take notice of a series of key trends impacting the market, ensuring they maximise the opportunity and connect with parents at this crucial time.

With a lengthy lockdown and parents becoming teachers overnight there has been a huge rush to buy electronic equipment for home schooling. With the potential of a second wave, parents may have to don the metaphorical mortarboard hats again. However it is laptops not whiteboards that have been their key props. Consumer Electronics has in fact been one of the few winners from the pandemic. Consistent growth is forecast due to the new demand for laptops for working & for schooling from home. Notebooks have been at the centre of a demand surge in particular. 73% of retailers have reported growth in sales for these products.

Pent up demand as parents return to retail
The economy grew by 8.7% in June on the back of the return to retail and steeper growth is forecast for July. With schools off since March, there is a lot of pent up demand with parents needing to get their children ready for the new school term. Clothing should still be a driver at the historical peaks of July and August, however stationary and tech products have been in demand during lockdown as both children and adults have been at home, with discounts readily available to take advantage of. The latest GDP figures showed Ireland, which is slightly ahead of the UK’s “return to normal” steps has shown positive precedent of customers returning to retail to buy their laptop and seek expert advice to do so. For many starting university or college it will be a virtual first term where lectures and study will not happen on campus but remotely, which could have a further effect on the tech market. Students will need the right equipment for working remotely and there is a huge opportunity to meet this need.

Allied to this, a clear trend that is coming through is that people are shopping with purpose. Parents looking to buy equipment for back to school are seeking expert advice but also looking to minimise unnecessary journeys with the virus still circulating. According to research from Kantar, since the Covid-19 induced lockdown began in March, shoppers have typically taken fewer trips to stores but have bought more items. We’ve found this ourselves, where some of our in-store brand teams have been achieving conversion rates well over 60%, however this can present some challenges. Many retailers will have a strategy to retain stock at their central locations to service online first, but also encourage stores to process click and collect or web orders for customers to allow the stock to go where it is in demand. This does mean limited opportunity for instant gratification, which is often the reason a customer will visit bricks and mortar. Retailers should look to ensure they can match the needs of customers so they can avoid a wasted journey. After all while online is growing it still can’t fully replace the bricks and mortar experience.

With necessity driving purchase and parents out in larger numbers looking to buy, brands and retailers should ensure they are still offering promotional activity to attract new customers. For example Dixons are offering consumers a 1-in-20 chance to win money back on laptop purchases of £349+. They are also offering Buy now pay later also on devices £349+. Meanwhile John Lewis are planning to run an “Off to Uni” online event from Mid Aug showcasing needed items.

With consumers less willing to venture out unless they have a ‘purpose’ we are seeing the high conversion rates indicated above of product demonstration leading to a sale. Having staff that can influence a sale was critical before the pandemic and is now more important than ever. With a plethora of hardware options out there for pupils, it is vital that in-store staff and those on the telephone can sell parents the products that meet both the needs of their children and their schools.

With new patterns of learning and pent up demand from parents, brands and retailers should learn the lessons and ensure they have a top of the class offering this Back to School period.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

The photo that acompanies this article by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

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How retailers approached Back To School season this year

Retailers still took advantage of the Back to School marketing season this year despite the uncertainty that remained with schools reopening amid the Covid-19 pandemic. So how exactly did did retailers create desirable in-shopping experiences for these uncertain parents?

“The customer journey has changed for some, not all,” said Daniel Todaro, managing director of marketing agency Gekko.

“It may now more often start online, but retailers can use an omnichannel approach in the ‘considered purchase’ space to drive footfall into store to encourage the right equipment students require.

“The message should be that it’s better to get hand on advice from an expert in-store who will have sold to many students over the years and therefore better understands the need of the consumer.”

While retailers may turn to a multichannel approach to drive footfall, marketing tactics also needed to adapt from its usual tone in order to match the mood of anxious parents.

“Traditionally, retailers’ marketing investments include a mix of TV and radio commercials, print and online ads, flyers and newspaper inserts,” said Sam Holding, head of international at email analytics firm SparkPost.

“While email marketing remains a direct and cost-effective way to approach consumers, and ensure customer loyalty and repeat business.

“But, to be more effective, retailers should adapt and invest in segmentation, analytics and email marketing to get the best results for their brands and improve customer experience.”

To read the full article please visit Retail Gazette.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Marina from Pexels

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In-Game Advertising – Smart Ways for Brands to Reach Targeted and Immersed Audiences

More of us are spending increasing amounts of our lives immersed in electronic games. It is a trend many brands have cottoned on to, as they use the virtual world to encourage real world action.

The stereotyped view of the gamer remains the headphone plugged in, square-eyed teen in their room. But of course, the fact this image has persisted for twenty years highlights an important fact. The teenagers of the 90s are now middle-aged and still love gaming. While younger consumers might game more, there is significant penetration among older audiences who have grown up with consoles. According to Statista while 73% of 18-24 year olds regularly play computer games, 40% of their parents’ generation (45-54 year olds) are also still regular gamers.

Generation Gamer

Gaming is moving away from being an entertainment source to being integral to how many people form connections with their friends, as well as with their preferred brands. So the idea that gaming is anti-social is misplaced.

For millennials, gaming is a huge part of their life and identity. They are gamers, they have purchasing power, they’re into new stuff, but also respond well to games that make them feel nostalgic. They are also mobile-first. While the traditional view of gaming is via an Xbox or Playstation, mobile games now contribute 51% of the entire global revenue from the gaming industry.

Today, advertising in video games is served in a way that is sensitive to the game environment and blends unobtrusively with gameplay. Smart brands have really begun to capitalise on the opportunities presented with in-game advertising. It has become more urgent for many. The onset of Covid and social distancing has blocked off many other traditional mass market advertising routes. This ranges from less footfall for outdoor advertising in ghostly city centres to still shut sports stadia.

The Covid Effect

Recent evidence highlights how much time we are now spending immersed in online, virtual worlds. A report from Digital Voices shows that viewership of the gaming category on YouTube is up an astonishing 31% since the start of Covid. Reflecting this, there has been a sharp increase in Twitch viewership and a jump in esports influencers on TikTok. People are playing and watching games to keep themselves distracted during these difficult times.

So brands have varied, engaged and growing audiences to reach through collaborations which many are now acting on, if belatedly. For brands dipping their toe in the virtual waters, they should take the time to really think about what they are looking to achieve with sympathetic forms of collaboration. Being seen to advertise in an inappropriate way can backfire as Burger King recently discovered to their cost on Twitch. They used a bot that normally reads out messages from fans to announce meal offers. This was seen as being “spammy” and exploitative and fans were quick to vent their fury.

Here are some of our favorite examples of effective in game brand collaborations:

1) The face that launched a thousand trainers
Adidas recently chose to collaborate with streaming star Tyler “Ninja” Blevins to launch a new line of trainers that was sold out in under an hour. Ninja, famously known for playing Fortnite, was delighted and posted a video thanking his fans. 

2) No stadiums? No problem
Adidas also recreated the canceled European Championship in the FIFA Playstation video game in June as a way to offset some of the inventory it lost from the live matches. Matches between 12 footballers and 12 celebrities were live-streamed across Adidas’ Facebook Live, IGTV and YouTube Live profiles in Turkey. 

3) DHL delivers an inter dimensional experience
The ESL One Hamburg activation with shipping company DHL was one of the most compelling examples of a smart brand collaboration. It showcased what is possible when a brand’s message is paired with a game and community to deliver an effective and engaging result. ESL’s campaign featured content creator Jake “SirActionSlacks” Kanner cast as an employee at an “interdimensional” DHL facility that serves both the physical and video game worlds, complete with an in-game version of DHL’s automated warehouse robot, EffiBOT. 

4) Can we target voters? Yes, we can
Back in 2008, Barack Obama (then Senator) achieved a first when his presidential campaign ads appeared in the popular EA game Burnout Paradise on Xbox 360. A billboard message inside the game encouraged players to register to vote. Obama realized back then what many brands are taking note of today: young audiences of 18 to 34-year-olds — which represent the core gamer group. As we approach the next Presidential election expect similar plays from the candidates to reach a younger audience. 

As brand collaborations with game developers become more common, the industry will move into a structured ecosystem demanding more advanced measures of viewability, analytics and real-time data to improve campaign performance. For one of the newest advertising markets, it’s Game on!

To read the full article please visit Digital Doughnut.

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CES 2020 Review: The most interesting tech from this year’s show

Gekko Retail Marketing Male Phone Travel

Gekko Field Marketing MD Daniel Todaro rounds up his interesting tech finds from this year’s CES show

The New Year in tech wouldn’t be the same without CES, the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas between 7th – 10th January attended by almost every established tech brand, start up brands, incubator and brand on the periphery of technology with something to showcase. The products on display range from the expected to the unusual, as in the case of sex tech, which for the first time seems to have found its place and acceptance at CES. As indeed has Ivanka Trump, who was controversially invited to headline as the keynote speaker when arguably there are far more qualified females, actually from the technology sector, rather than this particular privileged individual.

CES welcomed over 175,000 visitors to see over 4,500 exhibitors and 1,000+ speakers making it quite a big deal within the technology industry. It also means lots of product and innovation announcements, such as the smart shower head with Alexa built-in from Kohler, a smart frying pan that analyses your food whilst you cook it from SmartyPans, to autonomous vehicles from the now established brands in this sector and not so with Sony launching its autonomous vehicle prototype named Vision S. The vehicle is a prototype designed to show off the firm’s sensors and in-car entertainment technologies. The dashboard is flanked by an ultra-wide panoramic screen for driving information and entertainment. However, Sony did not indicate that it had any plans to sell the car to the public with Sony’s chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida only stating “We will accelerate our efforts to contribute to the future of mobility”.

Do you Uber? Well in future you may be doing so in the Uber Hyundai flying taxi. The S-A1 concept is an electric powered aircraft with four rotors for vertical lift off and landing and conceptually able to travel at a maximum speed of 180mph carrying four passengers. Flying autonomously at 2,000ft for a maximum of 60 miles, it may be zipping across a city skyline near you in the not too distant future.

Surveillance related technology seemed to be big this year with multiple brands showcasing security equipment such as cameras, doorbells and motion sensors, which is really rather boring and perhaps only serves to feed the paranoia of those who fear the worst. Loosely connected to this category is one of my favourite products to be announced, a smart mailbox developed by Canadian company Danby, which addresses the common problem of parcels thefts and re-deliveries. The device would assist in reducing the carbon footprint of our propensity to order online for delivery rather than buy in-store. The smart mailbox will apparently go on sale in the UK later this year offering a box which has an anti-theft drop-in slot for smaller packages opened with a code or smartphone app. The app will also be able to place phone calls between a parcel courier and a customer if they need to open the box remotely. I suspect this will get simplified should usage increase amongst users and online retailers.

Samsung Balie device
Samsung’s Ballie – a tennis ball-like robot that rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’

Another neat headline grabber announced at CES 2020 was the Samsung tennis ball-like robot called Ballie. It beeps and rolls around, following its owner with a built-in camera to capture and store ‘special moments’. Ballie also acts as a fitness assistant, can help with household chores, and activates smart home devices such as robotic vacuums when it thinks something needs to be cleaned. However, in common with the Daleks, it will find stairs a challenge! No release date has been announced, however AI and 5G are the main focus for Samsung in 2020 and not Bixby, as had been much hyped last year. Another product launched by Samsung and to be available in the UK and US later this year is the Sero TV, a rotating TV which connects to your phone. Perfect for Generation Z or those who spend equal time watching on a small device as they do TV. It can be rotated from landscape to portrait and is only available in a 47” 4k screen and estimated to land at £1,200.

Another twist on the laptop came from Dynabook. Majority owned by Sharp and formally Toshiba, the brand that launched the world’s first laptop computer in 1985, Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. Weighing in at an impressive 0.9kg and sporting a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor the Portege X30L-G is built using a magnesium-alloy chassis and includes a full-size HDMI. With Gigabit Ethernet, up to 24GB memory and Wi-Fi 6 the device also includes a TPM 2.0 IR camera and fingerprint reader.

Not to be outdone was Lenovo with its ThinkPad X1. A dual/ folding screened laptop with an Intel processor that runs Windows on a 13” screen when unfolded. It is slated to arrive mid 2020 in the US at a price of $2,499 with no word yet on UK pricing.

In fact, there were a rash of foldable screens on display this year and it certainly seems to be a trend not looking to abate soon, making 2020 potentially the start of a flexible decade. Foldable screens were launched on devices from turkish brand TCL and its prototype Foldable Phone (no name as of yet) and Dell with two concepts, the Duet – Foldable Notebook and Ori – a Foldable Device, unfortunately no plans to release these have been indicated. The much publicised Motorola Razr foldable phone was on display which has been available for pre order since December but was set for released during January 2020.

As you can imagine, smart speakers and assistant-enabled products were everywhere at CES 2020. With over 46 third-party Google Assistant-endabled products and 40 Amazon Alexa ones, it made the presence of both brands more notable throughout the show, with Google creating theatre to engage, as they do best.

Google revealed, for the first time, user numbers for the services is at 500 million people in a month and also a whole range of new features enabling users to schedule certain tasks with other connected devices. The features will allow users to, for example, schedule the washing machine to start its cycle at 6pm and also upload contacts from your phone to your Google Nest Hub.

Users will also be able to leave Sticky Notes on the screen for others in the house to see and have the ability to control 20 different types of devices through Google Assistant, which is needed with the increasing third party product partnerships.

Dynabook Portege X30L-G laptop
Dynabook has delivered another first with the world’s lightest 13.3” laptop. The Portege X30L-G weighs in at an impressive 0.9kg and sports a nifty 10th gen Intel Core U-series processor

Now we are all busy people and many time saving devices were on show but two stood out to me. The first will make sure we never need to drink a warm tinny again. The Matrix Juno supercooler is a kitchen countertop device priced at £300 which uses a thermoelectric cooling engine to absorbs heat using electricity known as the Peltier effect. It can cool a can of beer from room temperature to 4oc in two minutes or a bottle of wine to its desired 9oc in five minutes.

The other is the Y-brush toothbrush from FasTeesH designed to clean your teeth in 10 seconds. It’s a mouthguard type contraption packed with bristles that vibrate to clean all your teeth at the same time, arriving in March at around £100. I can’t help but think that making time by speeding up the process of cleaning your teeth has never been a priority for many, the cleaning is what counts.

Not wanting to ignore the most progressive news at CES this year, I think it important to highlight and applaud the CES organisers decision to now formally allow sex tech brands to exhibit at CES in 2020 after many years of exclusion. What this means is that sex tech companies are on the same playing field as all but in particular the established tech giants. However, there are exclusions with those companies exhibiting sexual wellness products having to agree in addition to the CES’s standard contract and rules also a separate sex toy addendum.

Why is this a progressive move? It’s predicted to be a $50 billion industry by 2025 and as taboos tumble and generations embrace a pragmatic approach to sexuality and sex, it’s an industry sector the ‘big players’ may wish to enter and penetrate as a lucrative growth market.

With so many new products announced at CES 2020, what does it mean for retailers? And how must they adapt to innovation across existing and new categories? Experience. Consumers are looking to experience innovation in order to make educated purchasing decisions. Whether that be by seeing a foldable screen in their hand to believe it, engaging with a personal robot to realise its value to them as a user or see that TV rotate 180 degrees, it’s all about the in-store experience a retailer can create where no online retailer can.

Innovation needs to be experienced live, not online and the retailers who can identify with this can cut through to make the tills ring by 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 they shop and where they are do it that has changed. Retail, as an industry, is vital to the global economy, so as we enter a new era of high street retailing, my advice to brands is: Always let consumers ‘live’ the experience and feel the brand.

To read the article on PCR online click here

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