Tag Archives: Gekko

Connect with your customer

Once the stuff of science fiction, the connected home is now a reality, with smart technology now found in almost all categories across consumer electronics and domestic appliances.

Consumers are starting to take a real interest in the smart home. But it’s up to retailers to bridge the gap between desire and knowledge, offering consumers a personalised service. This is an area where independent retailers can excel over their multiple counterparts.

Although there is clearly demand among consumers for smart products, many retailers may still be sceptical that the smart home is the future. If you are a sceptic, take a look at your top-end TVs and MDAs – chances are they all include smart features that your customers aspire to have in their homes.

New smart MDA products, such as the LG InstaView fridge-freezer (pictured) and the Hoover Wizard smart oven, have additional features to complement your customers’ lifestyles. You can offer these smart MDA solutions as the top of your ranging. Soon all appliances and CE products will be smart. Customers who have bought that smart TV or washing machine are likely to come back in-store looking for the next appliance to complete their smart home.

If you are thinking about ranging smart-home products, but don’t know where to begin – start small. There are plenty of products that require only a small investment, but can have a huge lifestyle impact for consumers. Smart plugs, such as those from Hive and TP-Link, allow users to control their appliances from any smart device. From turning on a lamp, to making sure your hair straighteners are turned off, smart plugs are an inexpensive and easy to install and a great way to introduce customers to the category. Likewise, ranging at around £70, smart light bulbs, such as Philips Hue or Lifx, are a great smart-home product, allowing consumers to switch on their lights or change the colour, and can be linked to a device such as Google Home.

Excitement

Then you can move on to other key smart-home areas, such as thermostats from Hive and Nest, and smart security products, such as the Ring video doorbell. These products are more of an investment with an average basket value of £123, but the lifestyle benefits will appeal to interested consumers. Similarly, smart speakers are an up-and-coming category creating a lot of excitement.

As recently published in ERT, a survey by German electronics retailer Reichelt found that 56 per cent of Brits were already using, or would consider using, a voice-controlled connected device in the home. However, 55 per cent did not know how to install them or would need to seek professional help.

There is definitely an opportunity for independent retailers to fill this gap, offering customers professional installation or even training in-store from a member of staff. With some multiple retailers lacking the wi-fi connection needed to fully set up a smart speaker or security system in-store, set your shop apart by offering a full demo-ready model of all your smart-home products for shoppers to try out. This could make your store an obvious destination.

But it’s important that you don’t confuse shoppers with technical jargon. Make sure your staff are communicating what the smart home offers each customer, be it peace of mind when leaving their home for a long period, the money-saving benefits of a smart thermostat, or even the convenience of a smart assistant.

Equally, make sure that, when demoing a product, your staff have been thoroughly trained and are able to answer any questions. Shoppers will want to be reassured that the device is easy to install, unobtrusive and convenient for them.

This will help inspire customers to come to you to upgrade all their appliances to create a smart home for themselves. With the average basket value of a smart-home purchase trending at £105, the prospects are good.

 

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/connect-with-your-customer/

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Positive news for UK retail

Recent yearly results published by Dixons Carphone are good news for all retailers, whether multiple or independent.

Despite price increases and decreasing consumer confidence following the Brexit vote, Dixons has been able to beat the downward trend, increasing pre-tax profits by 10 per cent and like-for-like sales by four per cent compared with 2016.

Looking at the whole of the UK, some key categories have seen lower sales. With TV, for example, seeing a 14.9 per cent unit sales decrease last year, it’s positive news for UK retail that the number-one consumer electronics retailer is proving that consumers are still heading to the high street to buy household tech.

As an agency that represents tech brands in UK retailers, including Dixons Carphone, Gekko’s results in-store agree with theirs, with sales having increased by 5.6 per cent relative to the same period in 2016.

One category that has been particularly significant in improving results for tech retail has been the smart home. Still a growing sector, expected to be worth $58.47 billion (£45.3bn) globally by 2020, the smart home is enthusing consumers to upgrade their appliances and home technology.

In a recent campaign for a smart-home brand, Gekko’s training team created a 68 per cent uplift in knowledge among store staff, which helped deliver a healthy 36 per cent sales uplift in the following weeks.

For independent retail, the strong results seen by Dixons Carphone set an optimistic tone. Gekko knows that 74 per cent of consumers prefer to shop in-store, because it allows them to see, touch and experience the product before buying. Dixons’s results show that consumers are still heading to the high street when looking to purchase a high-ticket item.

These ‘considered purchases’ – products that shoppers need time to think about before deciding it’s right for them – require that additional assistance only found in physical retail.

To match the large retailers in their success, independents need to create a welcoming, ‘showroom’-style atmosphere that will encourage shoppers to try out products before they buy.

A conversation with knowledgeable store staff can easily transform a browser into a customer. Developing categories, such as the smart home, are important areas for potential growth.

Set your store apart by offering shoppers an experience they can’t find in larger retailers, and you too can see these positive results.

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/positive-new-for-uk-retail/

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Here comes the sun

It may seem a long way ahead, but that well-earned summer break is right around the corner for many, and they’ll be needing some accessories to make that holiday memorable, practical and relaxed.

Put yourself in the flip-flops of another and think about the gadgets you like to take away with you. Translate that into a range of products your customers may benefit from and avoid those pricey, last-minute airport purchases.

Portable speakers are a key area for the summer season and an opportunity to sell. Think beach holidays, parties or barbecues in the garden. Consumers will head outdoors when the weather warms up, and require some entertainment.

Portable speakers from brands such as Jabra and Libratone make a perfect accessory for outdoor living, with Bluetooth connectivity allowing anyone to connect their phone and play their music via Deezer, Spotify or Google Play. Use this feature as part of the demonstration by encouraging shoppers to connect their own device to hear the quality and see the ease of use. Make sure that your staff know how to connect to the speaker and can speak confidently about its features, such as battery life.

Staying with audio, headphones are another accessory many shoppers may be looking to upgrade at this time of the year. Whether purchasing some travel headphones to make flying more enjoyable, from the likes of Sennheiser, or perhaps some sports headphones from Monster or B&W for running in the sun, shoppers will want to see a good range with demo units that they can actually hear playing.

Set up a ‘play table’ in-store, allowing shoppers to try out a variety of headphones. Connect them to a music player to let shoppers hear the quality of the sound. Although not for audiophiles, consumers still want to know they’re getting a quality product before they decide to purchase.

Train your staff to use their questioning skills when speaking to customers looking to buy an audio product, especially headphones. What are they using them for? What type of music do they like? Do they want over-ear or in-ear? What device are they using to play music? All these questions can tailor the shopping experience and make sure each customer gets the right product for them.

With recent news suggesting tablets and laptops will need to be kept in your hold luggage this summer, shoppers will looking for something to protect their gadgets. Think about your range of laptop bags and tablet cases. Does your ranging include heavy-duty cases, from brands such as CAT and Griffin, that will survive a long-distance flight? Shoppers will be heading into store to find these products, so it’s up to you to offer them the advice they need.

When demonstrating a case, don’t drop a device on the floor, as that may lead to disaster. Instead, make sure your staff can communicate the benefits of a case to a customer, explaining the materials used and build quality, and how these will ensure the safety of the customer’s tablet, phone or laptop.

In addition, add other accessories to the conversation such as Tile – a tracker that allows your device to be found anywhere in the world if lost. Shoppers looking to take their devices abroad with them will want the peace of mind that they are safe and secure – offer your customers this solution with a conversation and demonstration.

Another area to consider is home security. Everyone fears leaving their house for weeks at a time, some more than others, and asking a neighbour to look after things while you are away may not be an option.

Now with innovations in the smart home, this fear can be reduced by keeping track of our homes from any smart device. Consider ranging smart security products such as the Ring video doorbell, which allows users to answer their door and speak to visitors from anywhere in the world through their smartphone.

Likewise, smart plugs from the likes of Hive and smart light bulbs like the Philips Hue can give consumers the peace of mind that their homes appear occupied. Both allow users to control their lighting and appliances from their mobile, giving them total control of their home from any location.

If you’re speaking to a customer who’s inquiring about the smart home, explain the benefits of controlling their home from their smart device. The added security benefits are a huge selling point, and are something you can easily demonstrate by installing some demo models on a lamp or similar appliance in-store. And make the point that these smart home innovations can save them money on heating and electricity bills all year long.

There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the holiday season. Shoppers will be looking for last-minute items before they travel. Make your store look the part with seasonal p-o-s and displays, encouraging shoppers to head inside to find that perfect, competitively-priced accessory, purchasing a well-chosen product from your store rather than hastily at the airport.

 

Read more at: http://www.ertonline.co.uk/opinion/here-comes-the-sun/

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Identify the problem

Consumer electronics retailing lends itself like no other as a tool for retailers to be more dynamic in showcasing solutions and brands for consumers.

Retailers are experiencing growth across all categories, including a 1.5 per cent sales uplift in major domestic appliances expected through to 2021, of which 20 per cent of sales are made in the independent sector. Likewise, the UK small domestic appliance market was worth £976 million in 2016, and is expected to grow further this year.

Whether they are looking to upgrade an existing device, enter into a new product ecosystem, or make a ‘distress purchase’ to replace a product that has failed, consumers are looking for a solution to a lifestyle ‘problem’.

As a retailer, it’s within your power to provide this solution, offering consumers the right product for their needs and, in doing so, reinforcing why traditional retail is still the best platform to buy ‘technology’ products. The question is: what is the best approach to take for ‘solution selling’?

The problem

Ensure that sales staff know the products and services inside-out. Having an authoritative voice on the shopfloor to reassure consumers is the first step to completing that considered purchase.

Aside from this, a successful salesperson needs to employ a range of skills, including questioning, listening and demonstrating empathy with the customer.

Identifying the problem is the first step to finding a solution. Sales staff should be asking key questions of consumers to discover their needs, budget and motivations. Find out why the shopper is in the store. Are they looking to buy new, upgrade a device or has something broken down and needs replacing? What do they currently have? What specific features do they require? Where it will be used? How often? Is it a primary or secondary device? What is their preferred price range? Asking these questions will give your staff the necessary information to start the sales process in line with your store sales approach, using the customer’s needs to tailor their approach to products and brands that will suit them and their lifestyle.

It’s often too easy for sales staff to make assumptions about what is best for the customer, rather than asking questions. Equally, applying your own spend versus value opinion is not identifying with your customer, as value is in the eye of the spender, not the salesperson. To avert a hard sell, avoid these pitfalls and ensure your staff are fully qualifying shoppers before moving on to a demonstration.

Offer the solution

Once the customer’s needs have been established, sales staff can advise on the best product and brand specifically for the individual shopper. For retailers, selling the solution is all about the customer experience, and how the customer is introduced and immersed into the product and brand.

Your showroom environment should offer consumers the opportunity to experience a product or brand before they decide to make a purchase, allowing them to immerse themselves in the features and benefits of the product first-hand.

With the assistance of a knowledgeable staff member, your customer wants to be reassured that the product will meet their needs and solve their ‘problem’. To achieve this, have a working demo model to show customers how the device would function in their own home. Even if it’s something simply, like demonstrating the load capacity on a washing machine using a bag of T-shirts, this gives customers an extra bit of information that could make all the difference to their decision to purchase, helping to close the sale.

Above all, ensure your staff are trained on core ranges and brands so that they can explain the benefits to shoppers. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring what the shopper has told you, so that the features link naturally to the customer’s lifestyle or specific needs. Shoppers need to know how the product will solve their unique ‘problem’.

Personalise the sales approach. If your customers can see the product working, imagine it in their home, and be sure that it will fit their lifestyle, listen and tailor your responses accordingly and they’re much more likely to make a purchase.

Upgrade the solution

To upgrade from a standard sales approach to a ‘solution selling’ approach, the sales staff need to identify and enquire about the bigger picture, identifying opportunities and sweeping their customer up with a great shopping experience.

On top of offering a solution during the sales process, staff have the opportunity to ‘level up’ the sale by showing customers how much more they can achieve from their purchase by increasing their budget, in some cases marginally.

Having established the customer’s needs and advised on a product to suit their lifestyle, take them one step further by offering attachment sales that can enhance or protect the product. A good example is TV, where many shoppers will be looking for a perfect set-up to upgrade their home. Having decided on a TV, why not introduce a soundbar to the sale, demonstrating the superior sound quality offered and how that can enhance the user experience.

Gekko is expert in delivering this sort of training to retail staff, achieving an average 33 per cent soundbar attachment rate on TV sales. These sorts of high-value attachments benefit both your customers and your bottom line by increasing your average sale value. With this sales approach, Gekko was able to increase average sale value by 41 per cent over the entry-level smart TV.

When completing the sale, think about other questions you can ask the customer. For example, to get the most out of this smart TV, the customer will need an internet connection. Do they have good wi-fi in the living room? No, then how about some wi-fi range extenders? That could also include a cover plan or installation service. In this way, you’re demonstrating to the customer why they were right to come in-store and experience the product in a way they could never have done if they had simply shopped online.

This approach to solution selling is positive for both customer and retailer. The customer has a solution to their purchasing ‘problem’, having been advised and immersed in the best product and brand for their needs by a knowledgeable staff member.

Equally, the store benefits from up-selling and attachment sales as a result of this more considered approach to sales. The key focus though is the customer experience – if shoppers are given a ‘glimpse into the future’ – imagining themselves using the product and how it can fit into their lifestyle – they are much more likely to make that decision to purchase there and then.

They may also come back to expand a set-up, buy that matching MDA or simply choose your store for every future ‘technology’ purchase, because they know they will be listened to, offered solutions, given a service they appreciate and will enjoy the experience.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/identify-the-problem/

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Counting the cost of Brexit

The ERT Turning point Summit held in February touched on the many opportunities that face independent retail.

Like it or not, I refer to these as opportunities, as challenges paints a negative picture rather than an optimistic future in the most dynamic of industries – technology.

One area that we must remain optimistic about, as it’s a certainty, is Brexit and the impact this is having on trading even before Brexit has happened. By the time you read this, the Government will have triggered Article 50, starting the process of extricating the UK from the EU.

When the vote happened, there was much debate regarding the immediate impact in trading. In August, I wrote: “Any price increases will certainly not be absorbed by resellers, and will instead be passed on to the end user”. With the significant fall in sterling against the dollar (10 per cent) and euro (seven per cent), many brands chose to use this as reason to make trading that little bit more difficult for retail, in particular technology.
First to raise the average price of every product by 10 per cent was Dell, later followed by Apple who chose to increase prices by around 25 per cent again across every product, with a MacBook Pro jumping from £999 to £1,249. It wasn’t just hardware, however, as apps all increased from 79p to 99p and £7.99 to £9.99, all on the back of the Brexit vote and currency fluctuations.

Microsoft followed with an 11 per cent increase, and more recently Sonos, with what are now ‘old’ products, increased their pricing by 25 per cent across the entire range which took effect on February 23, taking a Play:1 from £169 to £199 and Play:5 from £429 to £499.

In the MDA category, although not a blanket price increase, many European brands, including Siemens and Indesit, are demanding payment in euros from distributors, pushing up retail prices due to a ‘trickle-down’ effect resulting from the increasingly unpredictable and unfavourable exchange rate.
These brands have something in common: they are category leaders and, to a certain extent, dictate the development of their respective categories through a rigid pricing structure and go-to-market plan. What they perhaps do not appreciate is that consumers aren’t stupid and can choose to opt for other brands with more appealing price points – an opportunity for emerging and established brands and retailers to explore.

The challenge for retail is how to up-skill your work force to continue selling the same products they’ve always sold successfully, but now at a higher price point. Sales teams will have to work harder to close a sale, and perhaps longer, but for no incremental benefit to you. Retailers don’t benefit in the same manner from what some may consider an arbitrary price increase, with only a slight or no increase in margin.

While many who voted ‘out ‘may have never considered that the costs of goods we import would go up, the reality is that it becomes a convenient rationale for many brands to apply an increase, blaming Brexit, and passing the cost on to consumers rather than absorbing this themselves. This is likely to be applied across every category.

Away from tech, others brands, such as Tesla and Lego, have both applied a five per cent increase, stating that this action was taken as “direct result of the continuing devaluing of the UK pound”. We saw what happened when Unilever tried to increase the cost of products such as Marmite by 12.5 per cent – the public made it known that they have a choice and they would choose to abandon a brand for a similar product. You need to have rather good brand equity to successfully manage price increases that impact on your loyal customers’ pockets.

Call it a ‘Brexit levy’ if you like, but let’s be realistic: it’s not going away. With Article 50 triggered, currency fluctuations could prove to be more negative and incur further price hikes. On the other hand, they could become positive, but if so I suspect we won’t see brands roll back price increases, instead retaining their increased pricing model to establish range pricing.

Whatever the outcome, market economics means retailers of all types must remain optimistic and have a clear vision of hope as they navigate the future. This includes pushing back on brands that make it harder to sell. Perhaps by introducing into your categories new or up-and-coming brands that could offer you more margin and your customers a better product at a reasonable price they are happy to pay.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/counting-the-cost-of-brexit/

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Take control of your destiny

ERT  has taken the brave step to look at how independent retail can be supported and survive, marking the start of a ‘Turning Point’ in the future of independent electrical retail.

Rent and rates increases and the Living Wage are just a few of the challenges retailers must combat. They can do this with a smart approach and by giving consumers what they desire, either in-store or online as an omnichannel approach.

One of our leading retailers, Robert Hughes, states that “personalisation and localisation is relevant” – sound advice from an independent group that is growing successfully.

Reliance on manufacturers to ‘do more’ is old-fashioned and misplaced. Manufacturers do not have a responsibility to reinvigorate electrical retail – it’s a collective responsibility.

With a falling pound, lower margins and greater competition in crowded categories, waiting for a brand to invest sufficiently in you is unlikely. Retailers need to be in control of their destiny and reinvigorate their model to appeal to all. Get brands to support you on training, promotion and display. Ask your buying group for those valuable generic soft skills that give you the ability to develop the categories that work for you.

Independents need to look for new opportunities for growth. The most obvious is the smart home, which is going to be linked to almost every category within the sector. With Gartner suggesting it could become a global market worth $38.35 billion by 2020 – that’s only three years away – the smart home is the future of electrical retail.

Independents have an opportunity to offer consumers a shopping experience not found in large multiples.

In the TV/AV category, 62 per cent of shoppers are between the ages of 30 and 49. One-in eight are male. This is an increasingly important statistic and, to quote Sony sales director for specialists Roy Dickens, the growth opportunity is “crossing the threshold into the consumer’s home” to install a solution, increasing attachment by offering a service that provides an end-to-end solution.

In domestic appliances, 70 per cent of shoppers are between the ages of 30 and 49. More than half (55 per cent) of shoppers in the category are female. This demonstrates the existence of ‘generation rent’, who don’t own their own homes and would be more inclined to rent MDAs.

Although shoppers with disposable income are in the older age brackets, don’t discount younger audiences. Many categories are more relevant to a younger audience – a prime example being audio. With just over half (52 per cent) of 16 to 24-year-olds regularly streaming music online, increasing your range helps to broaden your store’s appeal.

The omnichannel approach is an important part of the strategy and should be embraced as a method of attracting customers in-store whether, virtually or in person. The experience they encounter is what makes a shopper become a customer.

Retailers must ensure their staff can sell the benefits of high-value products. This can only be done through staff training, display, promotion and experience by retailers, supported by manufacturers, to achieve the combined approach needed to influence that ‘turning point’.

 

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/take-control-of-your-destiny/

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All I have to do is stream…

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Once again, the annual CES trade show in Las Vegas has shown us the future of consumer tech, from TVs to smart fridges, electric cars and even a wi-fi-connected hairbrush.

Some new products may seem like something out of a sci-fi film, such as LG’s PJ9 floating speaker, which hovers above its base station and offers 360-degree omnidirectional sound. However, most were much more down-to-earth, with many brands, including Sony, JVC, Kenwood and Audio-Technica, revealing new products pushing the boundaries of HD audio quality.

For audio giant Sonos, music streaming integration was a major theme. It announced a partnership with Spotify to allow seamless integration between the music streaming service and Sonos’s own app, which will mean users can manage their music without having to switch between apps.

Likewise, Naim’s newest Uniti all-in-one systems featured compatibility with all major streaming services, accessible via the built-in touch-screen. Expect this sort of user-friendly brand integration to be a major theme throughout audio in 2017.

Figures for 2016 show that 11 per cent of the UK population have a Spotify account, (around 5.7 million people), and around 2.6 million UK people have an Apple or Google Music account. The UK streams over a billion audio tracks each week – up 68 per cent year on year and up 500 per cent compared with 2013. Moreover, 45 billion tracks were streamed in 2016 – that’s around 1,500 per household per year – and streaming revenues grew 65 per cent for the top providers.

Total music revenues were up 4.6 per cent despite falling physical music sales and with streaming continuing its meteoric rise, this is good news for retailers stocking premium audio. Further integration between speakers and streaming services is a clear selling point. Use these announcements to highlight this connectivity to customers.

With 52 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds regularly streaming music online, increasing your range to suit different demographics can help to broaden your store’s appeal.

Sony’s upcoming SRS-XB range of Bluetooth speakers are a perfect example. They will appeal to younger audiences, with the two top-end models delivering lighting effects with an LED perimeter line-light, a strobe flash and speaker light that creates multicoloured patterns, ranging from pure white to rainbow, so you can have the lighting synchronise with the music.

This is all controlled through Sony’s SongPal app on your phone or tablet to start music playback, turn the speaker lighting on and off, add a speaker, or link up to 10 speakers. Make sure to utilise the product’s features to create some theatre in-store and attract potential shoppers to the audio area.

 

Smart speakers

The emerging smart speaker category is taking the technology found in smartphones (Siri, Google Assistant, etc) to the next level by adding a personal assistant to your living room or kitchen. Combined with a high-quality, 360-degree speaker, these smart speakers are fast becoming a staple in the audio market. The main players in the category are Amazon with its Alexa assistant, and Google with its Google Home smart speaker. These two are joined by Microsoft, which announced its own speaker featuring its digital assistant Cortana, in partnership with audio brand Harman Kardon.

As personal assistant technology continues to develop, expect the popularity of smart speakers to increase. As brands continue to integrate their services with Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana, consumers will begin to take notice of the real-life benefits of owning a smart speaker.

All these new audio announcements at CES prioritised high-quality audio, giving users the best possible sound. When displaying premium audio products in your store, you may not be able to sell the content, but you can help people experience quality audio.

Set up an area dedicated to premium speakers and headphones. Invest in a Spotify or Google Play Music subscription, allowing your display speakers to stream high-quality audio at the touch of a button. Make sure each speaker has plenty of room around it so as to produce the highest quality sound. And make sure smart speakers are connected to the store wi-fi.

Add-on sales are also achievable in this category through the introduction of wi-fi boosters. The Sonos Boost is a rather clever, powerful signal booster designed to ensure reliability of a Sonos over a large area. Make sure shoppers are aware of these products and potential issues they may face if their wi-fi network isn’t up to scratch. Also think TVs and soundbar options – there are many ways to bring audio into the sales mix. Aim for at least a 25 per cent add-on target with every sale.

Create an immersive experience that allows the shopper to fully utilise the speaker as they would at home. This is the best way to create an emotional, real-life connection.

Ensuring that your staff are trained correctly is also vitally important. With an expert staff member on hand to assist with demonstrations, shoppers can be reassured that the product is right for them and their needs.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/all-i-have-to-do-is-stream/

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Market intelligence

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The term AI is being bandied about in all forms of media, but do many people actually understand how Artificial Intelligence is now becoming part of the consumer-electronics landscape in some of the most everyday products – almost making smart technology seem old hat by comparison.

The reality is that in order for AI to function, you need smart devices to metaphorically ‘join the dots’ to create an AI solution that works for you in your environment.

Probably the most recognised mainstream AI product to come to market is the Amazon Echo, which is expected to sell three million units in 2016, with forecasts of 10m for 2017. You’ll know the product – it’s that black cylinder with a blue pulsating light on top, promoted through those awful adverts where some chap asks Alexa to add tennis balls and dog biscuits to his shopping list.

In essence, Amazon Echo and its sibling Dot – which has no speaker but effectively does the same thing – are intended to be your assistant, connecting all your smart devices.

Combined with other IoT products, Echo enables you to voice-control your heating, lights, online orders, music streaming and on-demand services like Uber.

It’s impressive stuff, but you’ll always have to ask for Alexa, prefacing all requests with her name, which may make you feel somewhat daft. After all, the only device I want to talk to is my phone, as part of a conversation with a human being. I’m sure I’ll adapt to AI over time. Generations younger than me and in the future will think this the norm – making AI a surefire success and as commonplace in the home as a TV or a tablet.

While Amazon’s product is reasonably priced, its users have fed back so far that 87 per cent are satisfied with the device. Eighty-five per cent use Echo to set alarms, 82 per cent to play music, and two-thirds ask for news updates. Overall, 39 per cent of Echo users plan to increase their usage as support grows for the platform, which will be intrinsically linked to bolstering Amazon’s revenues.

This remains unlikely, however, when you consider what’s coming next – Google Home. The future of AI in the home is way more than just a ‘smart speaker’, as the category is being tagged. This innovation outclasses all other mainstream AI devices when you consider its compatibility across all Google platforms, including YouTube, Google Maps and third-party streaming services such as Netflix and Open Table. Finally, it’s compatible across all OS devices, but complemented by all ‘Made by Google’ devices from Pixel to Chromecast.

Google Home changes the game by setting the state of play in the ‘smart speaker’ category, taking it to the next level and setting the benchmark many will struggle to follow.

AI is a mainstay, not a gimmick, which will intrinsically evolve with your devices, appliances, streaming platforms and all forms of entertainment. Alongside VR, it’s the next big thing estimated to become a $2 billion-plus category by 2020 that you can’t afford to ignore.

With an estimated $400 million being invested in 2016 on content development, the industry has established Virtual Reality as a credible platform over and above Sony’s PlayStation VR, which is estimated to sell 2.6 million units in 2016 alone.

What VR will potentially help is declining PC sales, as users transition to tablets and phablets. With an eight per cent decline in global PC sales, it’s unlikely that VR will fill the gap, however it will assist in particular within the PC gaming category.

VR will, it’s believed, be a $50bn industry by 2021, with only half of that generated from gaming. So the rest is to play for, with smartphone adoption accounting for seven per cent of the market, but interestingly achieving a higher volume due to the low cost of VR equipment. Those familiar with VR will know Cardboard, which has been around, in tech years, for ages. But now we have Google Daydream, a device that yet again changes the market with innovation, design and distribution only challenged by the Samsung Gear (Oculus).

Whichever way you view it, both VR and AI are here to stay and the new kids on the block are stealing a march. There was a time that many thought these innovations would come out of Infinite Loop, instead it’s evolving from Mountain View and Terry Avenue. For the times they are a-changin’.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/market-intelligence/

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Focus on Streamlining the In-Store Experience for Customers to Return

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Marks & Spencer (M&S) once again is in the news and is poised to close 60 poor-performing stores and increase its food presence due to falling fashion revenues and profit. Let’s not forget, this retailer has never placed itself as a high-fashion retailer, but one with a broad appeal for which it must cater. David Gandy, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, and the latest conscript Alexa Chung, who is yet to be measured for success, are fine brand ambassadors which have attracted new customers to the store — at least once. Therein lies the issue: let’s be honest here, ambassadors are not the problem and in most cases, depending on your taste, the fashion isn’t that bad or of poor quality either — it’s the experience.

Walk into an M&S and you’re greeted with a confused retail environment akin to a Poundland. There is harsh, bright lighting that bounces off the laminate flooring and awful graphics are festooned across the store. Images of middle-aged men in casual slacks will not make me go deeper into the M&S environment if that’s what I’m greeted with immediately on entry.

The fashion is laid out in a manner that speaks to no one in particular, big and small sizes, man-made and natural fibres, knits, pleats, and high neck lines share rails with garments for a totally different and diverse customer. There is no differentiation between ages and sizing in its merchandising, making it harder for shoppers to buy on impulse and instead expecting you to ‘browse’.

As a nation of shoppers we like to browse, but only for certain items. Or on the rare occasion, we see an item in the window and nip it to buy it there and then. At this point we may be enticed by the environment to stay a bit longer, browse, and become a true customer encouraged to visit again. Unfortunately, M&S has little linger appeal due to its stark and clumsy environment and merchandising, which doesn’t even reflect the 2016 Christmas campaign with Mrs. Clause. The message of a Christmas filled with love is immediately diminished on entering into store.

The solution? Bring them in with great food and great ambassadors to entice them deeper into a store with defined zones and a warmer, friendlier environment that makes customers feel comfortable rather than awkward. Differentiate soft mixed with hard zones, and group fashion by age, audience, and size so you know where you are in the store. Stop arranging shoes on shelves like tins of baked beans, and merchandising must-have fashion items next to shortbread and lavender draw liners.

The traditional M&S shopper has changed, while the new shoppers M&S attract through endorsement and ATL are put off by the environment. It’s imperative that every retailer makes their customer experience appealing, clearly defining where in the store they should be, and not approaching fashion retail as a one-size-fits-all.

Shoppers are intelligent and if you want customers to part with their hard-earned cash, you need to make it appealing, appropriate, and rewarding to your audience. Does anyone you know brag about the ‘joy’ of shopping in M&S due to its in-store experience or similarly about the items they bought? I suspect very few do, therefore by changing perceptions and carrying your ATL message TTL via social and the retail space may facilitate the love M&S desires as a fashion retailer.

 

Read more at: http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2016/12/05/focus-on-streamlining-the-in-store-experience-for-customers-to-return/

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Gekko named Employer of the Year 2016

gekko-growing-biz

Gekko are delighted to have been named Employer of the Year at the 2016 Amazon Growing Business Awards. Following a public vote Gekko was chosen as this year’s top employer, beating some tough competition for the top spot.

Gekko would like to thank everyone who cast their vote for us! We are humbled and thankful for your support!

For a full list of winners, click here

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